February 22, Four Years On

It’s hard to know what to write today.  In some ways, 2011 feels like a lifetime ago, in others it’s just like yesterday.

I go to work, I come home, I live, I eat, I play.  Life has gone on.  But that day changed us.  It changed us in different ways.

Some people moved away, moved on quickly, others are still in limbo.   In my closest circle of friends, four years on, 7 out of the 8 households have moved on – have had repairs etc done.  1 out of the 8 households waits, fighting insurance companies for the repair of their home, and it’s not likely to be started for another six months or so.  And it’s really only in the last 12 months that the rest of us have had any action.  There are still thousands like my friends waiting for their repairs.

Our experiences build the people we are.  Words like “resilient” get tossed around.  I’m not sure that’s the word – sometimes it’s just a case of getting on and doing it, as the alternative is too dark and desperate.  We have learned to share, be there for one another and be flexible.  But there are some days when you don’t feel like any of that.  There are days when you just think “it’s Shite”.  Then something happens – like a new cafe opening, or a festival, or a market, or even a beautiful sunny hot day – and you think “ah, it’s not so bad”.

Some days, when I go to work, frustrated by yet another road closure or diversion, or walking my way from the car to work over gravel and uneven footpaths (still being dug up!) I think nothing much has changed.  Then sometimes I realise how much it actually has.  It is easy to get into your routine and be closed to only your small part of the world, but if you digress down a different street for a change you often get a surprise at what has turned up or is being built.

I watched a couple of videos the other night, as I’d found someone had posted Dave Grohl’s speech about biking around Christchurch on youtube.  In the related links were some of the “breaking news” earthquake videos – mainly AustralianTV coverage about the quake.  Watching a couple of them I had chills down my spine.  Tears pricked my eyes.  You get taken back to the moment so quickly.  One of the videos (I stopped after 3) was a report a few days later and you could see how much had actually gone.  It was only then that I realised, yes it has all gone, but a whole lot more has actually been put in its place.  Sometimes looking back makes you realise how far we’ve come.

The Cricket World Cup opening ceremony was held here a couple of weeks ago.  We have a bright new Cricket arena – small in the world scale of things – but it is sooooo Christchurch.  For one, it’s in Hagley Park – our special place.  It is low key, with only one permanent stand, with the rest being green embankments (temporary seating for the World Cup) and wide open space with trees.

In about 12 months there will be about 3000 more people working in the city with the completion of the Bus Exchange, Cashel Square, the Justice Precinct and the Crossing Buildings.  These four areas are quickly growing and look like they’re on target for 2016 openings.  There are areas like Victoria Street – full of buildings nearing completion, and amongst all this we still have the quirky pop up paces, to brighten the vacant spaces.  I am excited about the future.  I’m also realistic as it will take at least  10 more years before it looks anything like a real bustling city again.

The one thing that struck me though is how many churches were broken, damaged beyond repair. The most beautiful, in my opinion, the Basilica – mothballed for now, and the most famous and controversial – the Cathedral in the Square where bitter arguments keep going on.  The one thing about churches, and the one thing I learned as a child, was the church was built on people – it IS the people.  The physical buildings are not the church – it’s the people within them.  We live in a city called “ChristCHURCH” and while the physical city is still in mixed states of disrepair, the people in that city are what makes this place the place I love so much, the place I live.  Christchurch isn’t its buildings, it’s the people.

I am grieving today – for what I lost.  What I lost was different to those that lost their loved ones.  It pales in significance to their loss.  There is hope for me, as my city is rebuilding – it will be back, but it will be different.  For those that lost their loved ones, they won’t ever get them back.  I think of them, and they are all in my thoughts.   I will always remember, I will never forget. That’s all I can do.  I will head out later today to the river of flowers, or perhaps to the nearest road cone to place some flowers.

And then… I will continue on, just like every other day.

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8 responses to “February 22, Four Years On

    • Thank you. It’s a hard subject to write about when so many lost their lives, yet we all grieve for them and we also grieve for our city.

  1. I still remember it so vividly, as we were living in Sydney then, with its large population of New Zealand ex-pats. One of my best friend’s old school friends lost both her legs (but was lucky to be alive.) Another friend was talking to a relative on Skype in the weeks after the quake while I was at her house. We watched a huge after shock hit ‘live’ on screen. It received so much coverage on Australian TV and yet the stories I heard first-hand from NZ friends were even more shocking.

    Christchurch must be so proud of how they have held up, how they have re-built and just for enduring so much. It is going to be amazing once the rebuilding of the main CBD area is complete.

    • There’s a documentary on this Wednesday which I think will be hard to watch? On the whole though step by step we’re all getting there, and I do think we’ll have a great city – and a safer one – in years to come.

  2. What a heartfelt post Susan. These anniversaries must be so hard for you all, but as you say it is a time to reflect on what has happened but also what is happening and what will come. Christchurch will rise from the dust and debris and be a strong and vibrant place again. Take care.

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