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What really matters

(Note: This is a post I’ve been mulling over since Tuesday night (NZST) but an internet outage meant I wasn’t able to post it until today. I’d also like to take a moment to thank, on behalf of my fellow Kiwis, those around the world who have lent us their support and given us their good wishes. Christchurch is a beautiful city… and she always will be.)

By now you’ve probably heard about the major earthquake that struck Christchurch, New Zealand’s second largest city, at 12:51 pm Tuesday. The city was already weakened by another large earthquake (7.1 on the Richter scale) on September 4th last year. That quake was followed by hundred of aftershocks and many were dismayed at the level of damage it caused but in hindsight it wasn’t a bad quake at all. Firstly there were no deaths, only one serious injury, and secondly while there was some damage to property and infrastructure most essential services were back up and running within 48 hours.

Tuesday’s earthquake was worse. Far worse. For one, it struck a busy vibrant city right in the middle of a weekday. It was shallower than the September quake and the epicentre was much closer to Christchurch city itself. The damage it caused to buildings already slightly weakened was immense. I have lived in Christchurch twice, both times for several years, and I’d say I know the CBD pretty well; but watching the TV coverage I was struck by how little was familiar now the majority of the beautiful old buildings that give the city it’s sense of grace and history are gone… including the spire of the famous Cathedral which gives the city it’s name. Eighty percent of the city has no water, 40% has no power. All reticulated gas has been switched off.

But buildings are unimportant alongside the human cost. As I write this (late Thursday evening NZST) the death toll stands at 98 confirmed dead with 226 missing. We – me, my partner and our children – are personally very lucky; our friends and family members who live in Christchurch are safe. But there are people, adults and children, waiting for loved ones who will never return home.

It is moments like these that bring us face to face with our mortality. It is events like this that remind us that we are, metaphorically speaking, just one step away from the dust from whence we came. And it is surely moments like this that remind us that life is ours for the living, for the enjoying, for joy and love and thrill; it is precious, too ephemeral by far.

And that is true no matter what we weigh.



2 Responses

  1. I’m glad you and your loved ones, near and far, are okay. I was thinking about you.

    • Thank you. Watching the footage on telly was surreal: I couldn’t get over the thought that, if we were still living in Christchurch I could easily have been downtown when it struck – I used to take the children there when we were getting cabin fever – and my partner certainly would have been (although his old building wasn’t badly damaged). My heart goes out to all those who have loved ones who haven’t made it.

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