Warning: this is not a cheerful post. Some people may find its content disturbing.
My Dad was English; he grew up in Ashington, Northumberland, a miner’s son. He emigrated to New Zealand when in his early teens, in search of a better life. I like to think he found it. I seem to have returned the Mother Country’s compliment: I hope it was a fair trade. He met my Mum there, a Dunedin woman of Scottish descent; her grandparents were Glaswegian.
They married, settled & raised a family – us – in Christchurch. Yes: Christchurch. That Christchurch, the one that’s been on the telly & in the news.
My home town. New Zealand’s 2nd largest city. Where I spent the first 25 years of my life.
It used to be “The Garden City”, full of beautiful gardens, parks & rivers.
It used to be known as a world centre of rugby: the dominant ‘Super’ rugby team, the Crusaders, were based there; it’s produced many many great All-Blacks.
It used to have a beautiful central gothic Cathedral as it’s city symbol.
Now it’s ‘that place where they had the earthquake’.
147 dead, including a 7-month-old baby, many still missing. There were people in that beautiful Cathedral spire: none came out alive. Much of the city centre is rubble; bodies lying, covered, in the streets as rescue squads concentrated on trying to save those trapped in the wreckage. Most of the city without water, much without power.
Flooding, landslides, houses destroyed by falling rocks. Many streets impassable due to cracks & liquefaction. Outbreaks of gastroenteritis due to poor sanitation. Hospitals overflowing, the injured flown to hospitals all over the country. Rescue squads flying in from all over the world, the military drafted in, tanks in the streets.
These things happen in ‘other countries’: China, Haiti, Bangladesh, Thailand. Not in quiet little old New Zealand, not in my beautiful home town, my Christchurch.
I feel as if a part of my life has been ripped away from me, forever; like I’ve lost a piece of my heart. And I have, really.
Kiwis, no matter where they are in the world, always retain a sense of place, of origin, an eternal identification with their home country. We will never forget the community spirit that NZ often enjoys, that is rarely found in older, bigger countries. My fellow ex-pat ‘Vegemitevix’ has expressed this far better than I ever could. Right now the whole nation is pulling together to help, regional differences forgotten.
As a school-boy I cycled past the beautiful Avon River 10 times a week for 7 years, past a much-used & much-loved old wooden footbridge, a local landmark . We used to hang out there on weekends. It was destroyed in the September ‘quake, then rebuilt. The may need to do it again.
When I left home & started work I cycled into work along the smooth well-maintained streets
past houses, shops & churches
up the ‘main drag’, Colombo Street
& into the city centre
then into work. (The red & yellow ‘Post Office’ sign on the left, below? I worked there for 2 years; my first job)
On sunny days, of which there were many, I’d often eat my lunch in the spacious & beautiful Cathedral Square, the city’s beating heart; many times on the Cathedral’s steps. Mostly rubble there now.
I used to love to visit a city landmark near my flat, even attending services there: the city’s beautiful Catholic Basilica:
So much destruction, so much death, so many lives ruined.
I’m just thankful that the friends & family I have there are unharmed. I’m also aware that many were not so fortunate.
A cousin’s son worked in the CTV building, until just a few months ago when he left to start his own business. Post-quake he was up all night trying to do what he could there for any of his former colleagues. There were no survivors.
I’m grieving for my devastated city & its people. So much of what comprised 25 years of my life: gone. And a part of me with it. Christchurch will survive, of that I am sure. But it will never be the same – and neither will I.
The New Zealand Prime Minister has set up an international Christchurch Earthquake Appeal. If you’d like to donate you can do so here
I’m sorry for the change of tone in this blog; I had to ‘get this off my chest’. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.
- Dunedin students mobilising to feed the Chch students helping clear rubble in the Chch earthquake [Ann Andrews CSP] (ecademy.com)
- Global appeal launched for Christchurch (kiwiblog.co.nz)
- A time for heroes (naudenewzealand.wordpress.com)
- Chch quake: Black Caps grieve from a world away (3news.co.nz)
- Christchurch earthquake appeal goes global (homepaddock.wordpress.com)
- VIDEO: Christchurch quake, World Cup cricket sympathy (3news.co.nz)