May 22nd, 2011 by

Forever marked…

Today, there is a global telethon fundraising event, to raise money for the Christchurch Earthquake Relief fund. I started watching the coverage on TV at 9am when it began – and quickly realized just how much the quake has effected me. I’m forever marked, forever changed by it.  My family and I got off lucky compared to a lot of people, a lot of families…  But there is still a lot of grief I feel, a lot I don’t understand, a lot I can’t comprehend.

I am forever changed. My family is forever changed. My neighborhood is forever changed. My city is forever changed. My country is forever changed…and to be right in the middle of such a life changing event, it really is  impossible to try to describe how it makes you feel.

Watching the coverage this morning, they were showing some new footage of the CBD, and every time you see new footage, it’s like you are witnessing the whole thing for the first time. I see buildings I used to walk past everyday when I was working in the CBD – and they are destroyed. If it wasn’t for a bit of signage on the ground next to it or the colors they’re painted, you just wouldn’t know what building you were looking at.  Areas that I used to stroll through, shops I used to wander into for an innocent look around – shops and areas I never REALLY paid attention to, that I took for granted, are just GONE…

What is really hard to see is the businesses that look as though they’ve been frozen in time (and I guess in essence they have been) – cafe’s and restaurants with tables & umbrella’s still outside, businesses with their ‘open’ signs still showing, businesses advertising a sale that was on at the time of the quake or a sale which was starting soon after.  It really is like life is frozen in time. Someone pushed the ‘pause’ button.

Possibly, the hardest buildings to look at are the buildings that are no longer there, because you know that there is a huge likelihood people lost their lives in the buildings that once stood.  I find it impossible to not cry when I see the site of the CTV building; I believe 116 people died in that particular building – people from our local TV station (CTV), people from an English language school, people from a doctor’s surgery which moved in there after damage to their original building because of a big aftershock on Boxing Day.  That doctor’s surgery is the one that my Dad was a patient of.  It is the one my Dad had had an appointment at and left for 20 minutes before the quake hit.

My Dad is alive and kicking – just as Dad-ish as ever – but I cannot for the life of me stop wondering what would have happened had he actually been caught in the building on that day.  Would he have gotten out?  Chances are, he wouldn’t have.  In the same way I think that, I can only imagine that people who did lose loved ones in the quake spend time wondering what would have happened if their Mother/Father/Sister/Brother/friend had had a later appointment, or an earlier appointment, an earlier or later lunch break, plans to meet someone earlier or later… There are so many what ifs on both sides of the fence – those who experienced the loss of a loved one, and those who didn’t.

Of course, damage and devastation weren’t limited to the CBD ; all over the city, there are buildings destroyed, lives destroyed – many such examples are in my own suburb of Avonside.  The name is part of the reason why.  Avon Side.  The Avon is a river that runs through Christchurch, and my suburb is very close to the river, to the point that there are houses along the banks.  Because we are so close to this body of water, our land is softer, and driving through my suburb, there are a lot of houses which now have a big lean on.  From my driveway, I can see one such house, which is now leaning so far to the right. It is touching the house next door.  In the other direction, there are 4 houses which have also been red stickered – and those houses are leaning slightly to the left or right, but also leaning forward, so the front of the houses are sunken into their front yard.  These houses are very close to the river.  Driving further along the river, I noticed a group of houses – I would say at least 10, closer to 15 – and ALL of those houses also have their fronts sunken into the ground. Again, they are right on the river.  There are also a lot of streets you just cannot drive along. They’ve been closed for 3 months now.

I’ve decided I’m going to get a tattoo as a bit of a symbol of the earthquake. It made a huge mark on me and my city, so why not actually physically MAKE a mark?  I am the type of person who cannot push influential events to the back of my mind – I have tattoo’s for my nephew & my angels, I have a tattoo for my Grandfathers who have passed away, I have a tattoo for Gaby (and will soon have one for Emersyn)… This earthquake has made as much of an impact on my life, though in different ways – so it feels just to me to get a tattoo.  I believe a lot of people in Christchurch have done the same thing, or plan to.

When thinking about the aftermath of the earthquake, one phrase comes to mind – one phrase that has been the glue that has held our damaged community together, a phrase which as given us the strength to look forward: KIA KAHA.  Kia Kaha, when translated from Maori to English, means ‘Be Strong,’ which seems very apt when thinking about our situation.  I recently took my first walk through the CBD – as far as I could anyway – and at the cordon, I burst into tears. On the corner, there used to stand a tattoo parlor where I had two of my tattoos done. On the day of the quake, the building crumbled, and when running outside, one of the tattoo artists was killed by falling masonry.  All along that stretch of buildings, there is nothing but devastation, however on the fence, someone had used ribbon to spell the words ‘Kia Kaha.’ It was so moving to see our words of empowerment and the backdrop of the devastation.

the picture that sums up the past 3 months for me.

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