Quaked but not Quaking

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Today has been a day of talking with lots of quake affected folk and  of making sense of things. It has been such a long four days since the quake. At least that’s how it feels. This first day of fearing, and then finding people, and of helping connect people to one another has been a strong lesson in what knits my world together. Namely, people, lots and lots of people, who are all connected eventually. The thought of some of those people leaving holes in the fabric of my life was terrifying. The sadness where people have been lost to others is immense. I just said to one dear person ‘light a candle’ having failed to find better words or deeds to comfort her for her loss. The enormity of the loss and damage when a person in our lives dies is huge. When a beloved city is so profoundly damaged, and many people die or are hurt, your helplessness in the face of nature and grief multiplies disproportionately. But if there is anything this has shown me it is that this sense of helplessness is to some degree a huge illusion.

I love the way my Christchurch friends have rallied around. You guys are so brave. I love seeing foreign countries rush to send help (search and rescue from Taiwan, GB, USA, Singapore,  and Aussie for instance), greedy corporations deploy their tools selflessly (Fonterra sending 200,000 litres of water by rail), homes opened, and wallets opened. Please give to the New Zealand Red Cross and the Christchurch SPCA. I have heard through Radio New Zealand that money rather than second hand gear is the preferred donation as it is easier to spread the effect of a cash donation and to administer generally.

It has been amazing to watch people rock the social networks to help each other find loved ones, beds, power, work space, lost pets, food, water, baby formula and more. It has seemed like everybody in the country pitched in on those practical issues. Websites were quickly set up and deployed to marshal assistance. There have also been positives in what we haven’t done. Most people have stayed off phones to allow the overloaded lines to be used by emergency services  and those trapped under building debris.

In the past day I have had some new experiences as have most people I know. I have:  offered the use of my home publicly to strangers, helped find loved ones via cellphone and computer networks,  offered to feed people, looked over my emergency kit and shaken my head in remorse, gone to my sister’s house just to hold her and harangue her to fix up her emergency kit, failed to sleep out of anxiety for friends still unaccounted for and an inability to turn away,  and I have listened to the humour of friends in a disaster and shared mine with them.

All these things have made the world very small. It is a tiny place within which we aren’t just connected, we understand each other and rub elbows even if we never met. My Rosie girl said that in the quake she met the best friend she never knew before – the woman who she hugged so hard and was hugged by while the world tried to undo itself.  Footage showed coworkers carrying each other, digging each other out of rubble, spooning each other on the ground for comfort. What every person does is felt. I have seen it so clearly in the past day. I do not think I will ever feel as alone again in the human, humane world.

2 Responses to “Quaked but not Quaking”

  1. Tim Jones Says:

    That’s a great post, Sally – it sums up my experience too. For me, the last couple of days have been a mixture of shock and sadness at the bigger picture, little moments of relief and happiness as I hear that various friends and acquaintances have made it through the quake, and the long task of working with relatives to try to confirm the whereabouts and health of our parents – a task that we accomplished through a mixture of new media, old media and personal contact. Now I know they are OK, the bigger picture comes to the fore again.

  2. seraph Says:

    Again, it is funny (not haha!) how similar everyone’s experiences are. Right now it seems like many people are experiencing the grumps that can come after a big shock, difficult circumstances, and exhaustion. They all know they’re in company.

    I’m really glad your parents were ok. I hope they are in a comfortable situation now.

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