One year on from the February 22nd, 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, Deborah reflects on the impact of the quakes and the ongoing aftershocks, in an excerpt from a new journal in progress.
In three days time we will remember the February 22nd earthquake. But already the anniversary is on my mind, provoked today by a column in the Sunday paper by a journalist who writes regular pieces of a controversial and inflammatory nature. Her style belongs to the new brand of journalism – provocative, outspoken, confessional begging a reaction and a readership – and a new breed of woman, benefitting from the ‘70s feminist activism, who is every bit as bold and brash as her male colleagues and perhaps more strident.
The first anniversary of the earthquake that killed 185 people and destroyed a city, is a time to remember and honour those who died, the rescue workers who risked their lives to save people trapped in fallen buildings and the medical teams who worked to revive and restore the seriously injured. It is a time to reach out and offer support and love to each and every citizen of Christchurch who has been trying to process the trauma and maintain a life while living with the unpredictability of aftershocks.
This journalist, invited by the editor to reflect on the subject, chose to examine her apathy towards Christchurch, thinking she might be speaking for many but at the same time aware she might ‘not win myself any friends here.’ She blundered on regardless explaining that she hadn’t visited Christchurch since the quakes and that it was ‘not a city I have ever had strong feelings about one way or another.’ She remembered falling in the Avon River when she was five and ‘lusting after the period homes bordering Hagley Park when she was 35.’
Imagining she was correctly gauging the public mood she continued,
I suspect my apathy in regards to Christchurch is more widespread than most admit. One year on, newspapers now hesitate to put it on the front page. Unless you are a Cantabrian, and even then maybe you have tired of the subject, living day in, day out, with the aftermath of a natural disaster. Christchurch simply doesn’t sell. And while undoubtedly Christchurch is the loser here, I guess I figure, and perhaps wrongly, that this is still the land of milk and honey. Trim milk anyway.
Regarding the 185 deaths, she reasoned, ‘Perhaps I suffer from the opposite of that particular western affliction, in which one dead local equals 437 dead foreigners.’
I read her words ‘…one dead local equals 437 dead foreigners’ and feel dismayed. Every life is precious. I read ‘Christchurch simply doesn’t sell,’ and think Christchurch didn’t ask for an earthquake and Christchurch certainly didn’t ask to be the subject of constant media scrutiny. Canterbury has been the victim of a random act of nature, one that couldn’t be foreseen. Its future cannot be predicted. The only certainty, according to the seismologists, is that there will be more aftershocks and quakes and this activity could go on for decades. Why then would you knock the city and its people, knowing this?
I am so upset by the column; I’m sending a letter to the editor for the first time in my life.
Read more journal entries here.