Wednesday, February 22, 2012

This day in History

This isn’t a post about biking. This is a post about me and about my city. A year ago today this city I live in was felled by a 6.3 earthquake which made the 7.1 we had the previous year seem like a gentle nudge. This quake threw down buildings, from heritage icons, to old shops and facades, through to so-called modern buildings. 185 people were killed, thousands injured, hundreds trapped. All of us changed. 

I know I have changed. Today, on the anniversary I’m still struggling to come to terms with what has happened to this city. I struggle with the guilt I have about my difficulties with coping when my friends and family came through unscathed and our property, which was in a state of chaos anyway, was undamaged. I can’t help but think sometimes, what have I got to be upset about, there are so many who really have to struggle. 

And that is the problem. There are just so many who are struggling, fighting the bureaucracy, fighting the insurance companies, fighting EQC, my heart goes out to them all. I’ve biked all over this city and I’ve seen the outskirts of the ghost suburbs and my heart breaks for these families. I see the houses teetering on the cliffs above Sumner and I think of all the treasured possessions that will never be recovered from them. I hear the stories of the looters, the arsonists and I feel sick.

Worst of all I think of that first night, I think of those people trapped in the CTV and PGC buildings, the ones on their phones to loved ones. The ones who were trapped and begging for help. The ones who were so very brave, but who were not saved. No one was pulled from the wreckage of CTV alive, and the thought of that night in the rubble haunts me. 

And as time has gone on the fear has crept in. Only in Christchurch does your neighbour opening a sliding door with a rumble, a truck or train going past or the sound of your house expanding and contracting in the heat and cool cause your heart rate to shoot sky high. It’s hard for me to remember a time when there were no shakes. There was even a time when the little shakes didn’t bother me. But as the year has passed and the aftershocks mounted up to over 10,000 my resilience to them has gone. My mind jumps to what ifs. I feel like a rabbit in the headlights, waiting for the next big one to mow me down.

The scars of this disaster are every where and seem to touch everything. The central city is unrecognisable, so much of it is vacant lots filled with weeds and gravel. All the places that I treasured about this city are gone, the spaces that were defined by the buildings all join into a huge vacant lot. Everywhere you go there are these tall weeds which tell the story of a city that is wounded. The roads are scarred. In places by the monsters that have devoured the buildings, but mainly by the grey ooze that compounded the misery of us all, filling homes, streets and back yards. Fresh crisp squares of seal mark the spots where the roads were dug up to get to the sewer lines twisted and buckled by the shaking and the ooze. In back yards throughout the city there are covered over latrines, but there is always the thought that they’ll have to be reopened.

Even biking in Christchurch has changed. Half the singletrack in the Port Hills is either closed due to rock fall or destroyed. No longer can you head out for a glorious day riding from Halswell to Taylors Mistake on sweet challenging tracks, enjoying stunning views. Now there is a short loop and Greenwood Park is isolated and alone. Road riding has suffered similarly. With Evan’s Pass and the Lyttelton to Sumner road closed indefinitely not to mention long sections of the Summit Rd, many popular loops are gone. And for those riding on the flat there is of course the bumps, holes, cracks and constant road works to contend with. BMXing hasn’t escaped either with the awesome North Avon track at Bexley Park badly damaged and closed. 

Everything reminds me of that day. It is still fresh in my mind. The fear when the ground threw me about, the sick worry for everyone I knew. The horror as we listened to the radio and cried as the extent of the disaster slowly became clearer. In that week and the months that followed it felt like we were living in a war zone. There was the constant thump of helicopters over head. The streets were filled with army vehicles. There is something so surreal about driving out of your street and giving way to a LAV. 

It is only now, a year on that I’ve realised I need help to come to terms with all this. And that if I can’t I don’t know if I can stay in Christchurch. I need to get past my guilt, my feeling of helplessness and my anger. I know my story and my feelings are ordinary, this is what life is in Christchurch. Some people are coping well, some people are not. I hope that we can all heal, that Christchurch will be a great place to live again, but for now we have to wait and the future is uncertain.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You move me to tears today & I feel so helpless to ease your pain. Remember my love for you is never ending. Luv & hugs, WendyXXXXX