Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Christchurch, One Year Later

I haven't written in my blog since I arrived home in Canada last March; after all, it is titled "Carolyn in Aotearoa", not "Carolyn in Canada". But I feel compelled to write today, as it is February 22nd in New Zealand: the one-year anniversary of the Christchurch Earthquake.

It seems like a bit of a misnomer, as in reality there have been thousands of earthquakes in the Christchurch Canterbury region since September 2010, but say the phrase "Christchurch Earthquake" and everyone immediately knows you are referring to the magnitude 6.3 on February 22nd at 12:51pm. It's just past 9:15am in New Zealand right now - here in Canada it's 12:16pm on February 21st - but having just had my lunch here I feel eerily anxious and scared, almost as if there wasn't a 21-hour time difference, and the moment when my parents and I found ourselves in the midst of New Zealand's second-deadliest national disaster is rapidly approaching. This time (NZ time) last year I was at the airport meeting my parents, the latter having just flown Vancouver - Auckland - Christchurch to visit for three weeks. What a welcoming they ended up receiving!

Since returning to Canada I have been asked to give multiple presentations on my experiences in the earthquake, and share my pictures and story with the world. I don't enjoy reliving that day in vivid detail, but I do so because I hope my personal narrative is able to help individuals understand what it is like to be in the midst of such an event, and to spur them into action to better prepare themselves and their families.

I still experience a rapid bottoming out in my stomach each time I hear a low rumble or feel a building shake slightly. I don't think it will ever go away; it's a survival mechanism now, built into my brain and exacerbated by the fact that I live in an active earthquake zone. I won't go into parkades anymore, and when I walk around downtown Victoria, along storefronts and down narrow alleys, I look up uncomfortably at all the brickwork and mouldings and try to plan an escape from falling masonry should the ground suddenly start to warp and rumble.

I've been watching some of the footage of the memorial services in Christchurch today over a live streaming feed from the internet; I hope to be home in time enough today to watch the official remembrance ceremony from 12-1:30 (3-4:30 Canadian time). Even though I have two midterms this week and certainly don't have much time to spare, I feel the need to be connected to New Zealand and Christchurch today. I can't be there in person, but I can be there in spirit.

It's hard to forget. I don't want to forget... and yet, at the same time, I don't want to relive the earthquake, the event I now think about every day of my life. Perhaps by not being in Christchurch, it is harder for me to move on, as I haven't been there to see the rebuild effort, to see the city recovering and its citizens going on with their lives. Yet I am still in touch with the family I stayed with in Heathcote, and they have certainly picked up their lives and moved forward. Perhaps I should be taking my cues from them.

It's 12:51pm here in Canada. Kia ora, Christchurch. Be well! You are in my thoughts today. I am there with you.