Friday, February 25, 2011

Christchurch Earthquake Feb 22nd. Resilience and Sharing.

Photo by Reuters

This morning when I awoke, I snuggled up to my wife Kay, and told her how pleased I was that we married.
"You're perfect for me. You're bossy."
"You're bossy too."
"You're more bossy that me."
"No, you are."
So it was I who made the tea and brought that to her, to share together in bed.

Then we started another round of phone calls.

We rang her sister in Christchurch, devastated by a second earthquake on Feb 22nd. We lay there, taking turns, saying little, just listening, letting her sister talk and get it off her chest. We heard about living in a house, with cracked and twisted walls, broken and uneven floors, liquefaction throughout the house, no power or water, cooking on a camping stove, having to clear up all the broken glass, washing in a bucket, peeing in a hole dug in the garden.

But today, at least she wasn't crying constantly.

Then we finally got a call from my younger sister, who I  have been able to know was OK through a Facebook contact with her daughter. I listened again as she got a lot off her chest. The terror of the quake. Taking shelter in a pantry doorway, being pelted with all the contents that leapt out at her to smash on the floor. How when it happened, her husband in his car had very nearly rolled over the cliff on the drive down the hill. The frightened dogs that had disappeared, for which they had searched, finally showing up at their door...with 4 others that had chummed up in a scared pack. All being taken in and fed until owners had been found. All my 6 sisters are like that, always loved and cared for animals.  The dream house they had been building over the past few years, cracked and twisted, probably needing to be demolished.

I could hear her sobs as we told each other "I love you" as we finally rang off.

Last night we rang our lifetime friends who live almost at the epi-centre, right on the side of the Heathcote Valley, in sight of the Lyttleton Tunnel. They're amazingly cheerful despite all the terror of being so close. T is just thankful the city shopping mall he was in at the time of the quake, did not collapse, and that all his family are well. His daughter's house is a write off, as if the first quake in September wasn't enough, livable only just...because there is nowhere else to go....

During each phone call, probably lasting some 30 minutes or more, we listened as Christchurch rumbled again and again...twice during every call! The aftershocks measured as high as 4.4 keep going on.

But I also listened to them describe the amazing coming together of their neighbourhood. Taking it upon themselves to check on elderly neighbours. Setting up 'Share' centres in some one's garage where any surplus of essential items you leave, and you may take what others have placed there that you need. Student volunteers turning up by the busload in a suburb and assisting anyone clear out their house. Loading their car up with neighbours containers and filling them at water dispensing centres. People coming in off the street offering to help clean out their house. Human kindness shining through, described to me over the phone.

I listened to them describe how resourceful they have had to become, despite the lack of sleep, and the deprivation of essential services. They're realising, and they're feeling proud of just how well they are beginning to adjust and cope. I listened as my sister-in-law remarked how resilient they have been. They're thankful no casualties were visited upon them or their families. They know other families are facing worse than they are. They're appreciating the offers of help they've had from friends,- cleaning up, food, money, or accommodation if they have to move out of  their shattered homes.

In times of disaster we have to concentrate on the neccessities of living from day to day. We are stripped of our need for what after all are the mere fripperies of our modern lifestyle. We are forced back to basics, relying on our skills to survive, to merely be able to cook a meal, or boil safe water over a camp burner. And we come together- neighbours we may never had much to do with suddenly become our best friends. Sharing whatever we can. Helping physically as well as emotionally.

So we ring our friends and family and just listen. They tell us it really helps.

We are sharing in our friends and families grief. There is hardly a minute when we are not thinking of them. So after another round of phone calls, we hug, and tell each other -
 "You're perfect for me. You're bossy."
"You're bossy too."
"You're more bossy that me."
"No, you are."....


How you can help.
A list of agencies to donate to is here-  earthquake-devastates-christchurch my earlier post, updated with new info.

Latest info-
145 confirmed dead.
200 plus people missing.
600 search and rescue staff  from NZ, New South Wales, Queensland, Japan,Taiwan and Singapore involved.
594 treated at emergency departments, while 1,000's have sought medical treatment.
600 general practitioners and nurses have volunteered their services.
22 people thought crushed under rubble in the iconic Christchurch Cathedral.
CTV building where up to 122 people are unaccounted for, including up to 90 international students at Kings Education language school which was in the building.
Christchurch's tallest building, the 26 storey Grand Chancellor Hotel is in danger of collapse, which will take down other buildings around it. This hampers rescue efforts nearby.


Mary Hudak-Collins said...

Sometimes Jim, listening is the best help we can have as no words can mend the disaster.

JIM said...

Jim My hope is that for your family peace comes soon. No more shakes and a chance to continue their lives. I will keep a good thought for all the people of the region.

Unknown said...

God bless you and your wife Jim, and god bless all those that are helping. Keeping everyone in my thoughts and prayers

Jim said...

The shakes go on and on. Since September last year they have had to live with them, get used to them. But after this big one, every aftershock brings the fear of another large shock. There's no getting used to the aftershocks this time around. 1200 people a day leaving Christchurch, some have had enough, nerves stretched to breaking point.

River said...

Let's hope the shakes end very soon and people can get started rebuilding their lives. I'm glad your family is okay.

The Dropout said...

Recovering from such a major disaster is going to take a lot of time and a lot of work. I'm glad people who are affected are able to find the strength and hope they need to continue.
I'm glad you are able to reach out and listen and that you know it helps.
It also occurs to me that Bossy-Boots may be a better nickname for you than JimShu... just a thought, though.

John said...

As I go outside to dig another "long drop" I do now know that in a bad situation the best comes out of people. You are right to talk with your family - talk yet listen. Communicate with young and old - they need to do this, and thankfully you are there to listen. Yes life is sad and terrible here, but there are such uplifting stories of support. Thanks for reminding people of where donations can be made.

Jim said...

Hi Dropout. Yeah but that doesn't fit my number plate. But the 'bossy' reference when talking to each other is just our way of saying we respect each other for both being very strong willed people. We want each other to be strong, and giving also.

lorna - the roamantics said...

wow jim. what a thoughtful, beautiful post. just sorry it comes out of tragedy. glad that your family is safe and hope that everyone is able to withstand the new related challenges and keep eyes on what's good & important as you have. warm thoughts :)

Jim said...

No problems John. I just hope you and your family can get your lives back together again quickly.
Are you getting supplies through that you need?

Jeremy B said...

Jim, thanks for sharing this. I know this earthquake has been very personal for you. And while it's been hard for your family, thank you for putting names and faces on this tragedy. I had no idea aftershocks were still going on after the big one. Hope everyone is OK and that resiliency continues!

robin said...

Although the quality of the writing isn't really the point when it come to events like this I just have to comment here - a beautiful, beautiful post.

Jim said...

Thanks for all your support guys. And yes Jeremy, this post is more personal than the first. They serve different purposes. This is more about the human or personal effects. It's harder now to keep in touch as many friends have been ordered out of their homes and are now staying in shelters or with out of town relations.
Thanks for the comment Robin. Appreciated.

Rease said...

This is heartbreaking but I truly admire these strong people. I'll keep praying!

A to Zen said...

I'm glad your family is ok. When we heard the news about the earthquake I immediately thought of you and your blog post about the other time the earthquakes hit.

Jim said...

Thanks Rease. Yes, you have to admire the way they are facing up to this disaster, which will take years to recover from. To rebuild so many homes, and businesses.

Hi Angii, glad you popped in to read this. It's getting harder to maintain contact as many have moved out of their homes and living with friends or relatives out of town.
And we just made a donation to the RNZSPCA as many pets are left behind or missing.

Mark H said...

My thoughts from Australia are with this wonderful south island city community. I've been to Christchurch several times and love the beautiful central square and the relaxed feeling throughout the city. It is difficult to believe the damage wrought throughout but so reassuring to see the remarkable voluntary efforts to give people solace, rescue those caught by the falling buildings and to start the huge rebuilding exercise.