Saturday, February 18, 2012

Christchurch; one journalist's experience

Jarrod Booker was one of the first members of the MSM to report personally after the first earthquake shook Christchurch early on the morning of 4 September 2010. In a story under his own name he wrote:

New Zealand Herald reporter Jarrod Booker, who lives in the central Christchurch suburb of Linwood, said he was woken by "extremely violent shaking."

"Items were falling and crashing around the house. It was extremely violent shaking."

He said the chimney from his next door neighbour's house had fallen and smashed through a car's windscreen.

"There have been a number of aftershocks of a much lesser degree since then."

In this morning's Herald, Booker reflects on almost 18 months of shaking, but especially on the upcoming anniversary of the devastating 22nd February 'quake; he writes:

There are precious moments living in Christchurch when you can forget all about earthquakes. You have to treasure them because they never last long.

When my partner and I were at the recent opening of a French film festival at one of the city's cinemas that is still operating, we thought we had found an ideal distraction.

We were both immersed in the story, Heat Wave, unfolding before us on the big screen until about halfway through the film a familiar rocking sensation suddenly shook us back to reality. A strong aftershock was shaking the whole cinema complex. We gripped our armrests and looked at each other nervously. So did the rest of the viewers.

After it subsided, a cinema staff member walked down the aisle across from us, his torchlight bouncing around in the darkness, to check the emergency exit. It hit home just how vulnerable we were.

It later occurred to me how the barrage of thousands of quakes to strike Christchurch over the past 18 months had hardened us.

If we hadn't been through so many terrifying moments, if this had been the first quake of its kind, we probably would have run in a panic from the cinema.

Instead, after exchanging a few anxious glances and tongue-in-cheek comments, we went back to watching the film. So did the rest of the viewers.

The whole experience has changed, but you carry on.

And that's the way life is for Christchurch people now: you take the hits the earthquakes deliver, and keep on going with as much normality as you can.

That last sentence is one of the better descriptions we've read of what life is like for Christchurch residents. Some people are able to brush it all off; others have either fled the city, or continue to live in a state of stress which is exacerbated each time an aftershock rolls through the city. But for the majority, Booker's description is a perfect fit. Amongst our many friends, work colleagues and family from Christchurch, all groups are represented.

We've visited Christchurch a number of times since September 2010, and we've experienced a number of aftershocks, the worst of which was the Boxing Day one in 2010. It wasn't as big as some of the others, but it was centred almost in the CBD and was especially shallow, and it did quite a bit of damage.

So Jarrod Booker's piece is an excellent first-person account of life in Christchurch over the last almost eighteen months, and we hope that it is widely read. We'll leave you with his closing comments:

The thing you often hear from people who live outside Christchurch is: "I can't imagine what it must be like for you guys".

And they are right - you can see the images in the news and hear the people's stories as much as you like, but you have to live in it day after day to truly understand it.

How can you explain a way of life that swings from the mundane to pure terror in an instant, without any warning?

As we approach the first anniversary of the February disaster on Wednesday, in some ways I find myself dreading it. It's not easy being faced with such strong reminders of that terrible day - even for someone like myself who got off lightly.

Having spoken to many of those who lost loved ones a year ago, I can imagine how agonising it will be for them.

My own partner lost a number of friends and former colleagues who worked for Canterbury Television, and I know it will be hard on her.

Wednesday will be one of those days when it's impossible to forget about earthquakes.

We will all be hoping it is the beginning of the end for the quakes, and the start of a new era for our city.

1 comment:

Monique Watson said...

God, that brings it al home. Reminds me of the old saying: "Be glad for what you haven't got"