Today marks the first anniversary of the February 22nd earthquake that struck Christchurch at 12.51pm and wrought so much destruction, loss of life and personal injury.
Since that dreadful day we have lived through 10,000 aftershocks – some were just as big as February’s quake (though fortunately not as tragic). We all know people who have lost loved ones, lost their homes, their jobs, their personal security, their sense of safety. We’ve all been tested to our limits, car doors slamming make us jump, and large trucks driving along the road stop us in our tracks like Meerkats checking out the danger all around us. We travel to other cities for some respite and spend most of the time avoiding tall buildings and feeling scared about un-reinforced masonry.
We all have hoped for the best (a bright future for ourselves and our city), but secretly feared the worst (more quakes, more destruction, a city that takes forever to get back on its feet, a city re-built not to our liking). We all wonder just when the nightmare will be over. All we know for sure is that we are not in control, ‘mother nature’ calls the shots (and we swear at her and call her very bad names) and she turns out to be one very unpredictable ‘lady’.
Understandably, the people of Christchurch have been apprehensive about the anniversary. We want to acknowledge it, but we also want to move on. Yet every time we feel like we are getting back to some kind of ‘normal’ something happens, often it’s another reasonably large quake and it sets us all back. Sometimes it’s just finding out that a favourite block of shops is now too dangerous to go into, but just a week before they are closed you were shopping in them.
In some ways it feels like the anniversary came around very quickly, but when I actually think about that day, it feels like a lifetime ago.
I was not sure how I wanted to spend today. All I knew was that I really did not want to be alone at 12.51pm (the time of the quake last year).
So I decided to spend this morning at my favourite place – the Botanic Gardens.
I attended the very moving ceremony that was part of the Festival of Flowers. I couldn’t think of a more beautiful or tranquil place to be this morning. A statue of a Golden Angel was unveiled as a memorial to lose who lost their lives.
A number of local and international dignitaries spoke and I was moved to tears by the incredibly emotive sound that came from the Taiko drummers.
The ringing of the peace bell was also very moving (it was rung by a young Japanese girl who should have been in the CTV building, but survived that day only because she forgot her lunch so had to go out and buy it). It’s those types of stories that bring it home to you how random life can be and how little control we really have over our fate. Just one small decision can change your life forever. I made a lot of small decisions that day too, ones that took me away from the central city and back home.
This morning’s ceremony closed with everyone writing notes for the wishing tree – about our hopes for our own futures.
We then threw rose petals into the Avon River and watched then floating down through the gardens. The event was quite small and informal and just wonderful. I am so glad I attended it.
I then met up with a friend for lunch and after playing with some monarch butterflies in the Museum we went to the very large memorial that was held in Hagley Park. Thousands of us stood in silence when 12.51pm came around. So I was not alone. I can’t say it was a very moving experience being in the park. It was surreal. As sometimes there are moments when I think this has all just been a crazy dream that we’ll all wake up from some day.
But we never do, we turn on the TV and one year later we are still the headline news. Some day we will just be a footnote in the history books. But for now, we are living this history the best way we know how. We’ve pulled together, we’re a strong resilient community, and I really believe that we will stay that way for decades to come – bonded over our shared experience.
Kia Kaha (stay strong) Christchurch