It’s hard to know where to start this one, I have so much in my brain! Lots of people have been sharing their reflections two years on from February 22nd 2011. It’s been really good to read and listen, and consider my own thoughts and feelings now that some time has passed.
On reflection, I think I was pretty deeply traumatised for the first six months after the earthquake. I had all the classic signs – inability to concentrate, feeling restless or anxious, easily stressed, trouble sleeping, random crying. I’m glad that part has passed – as I knew it would.
But it’s been hard to move on. After a traumatic event – like when someone dies suddenly – there is a period of shock, and then grieving and a sense of loss, and then eventually a letting go. I wish I could. Sometimes people express surprise to me that it’s still at the top of my mind – something I still talk about a lot (are you sick of hearing about it? If you’re not from round here, probably).
If you were in Christchurch every day, you would understand why most of us haven’t been able to put it behind us. I’ve moved from shock, to grieving, a sense of loss, to road cones and destruction and waiting for insurance companies and EQC and being told that it’s a long road ahead. My every day starts with remembering what we’ve been through and where we are up to – I back down my driveway and have to think about what to do next – I never quite know where the roads will be closed, detouring, causing banked-up traffic. It reminds me everyday what I went through.
Sometimes people ask why don’t I just leave this dangerous, depressing place. Think about it. Would you leave your home, your job, your children, your grandchildren, your friends and extended family if you were in my shoes? That seems like the opposite of a good idea. They are what hold me together. I would be less frustrated by road cones somewhere else, but I’d be leaving my entire life behind. So for now, this is where I stay (sometimes I feel a little trapped, but it passes).
And because I’m not one to wallow in the boo-hoos, there are some great things happening too. Reality has changed, and to be honest most of it sucks, but here and there are bright little sparks of awesomeness that make it a bit better. Our wrecked city is actually looking pretty cool in places. It’s like someone bombed it and then left children to rebuild. There are strange and colourful gap fillers popping up all over the place. I love them so much – going to the city it makes me so happy to see a pavilion made from wooden pallets, a mall made from containers, a library in a fridge, a cathedral made from cardboard for goodness sake! We had the city pulled out from under us, and people have been so creative about poking bits of it back in. I hope it stays, and grows.
I sat in Latimer Square today (it was a triage zone for the city on the day) with hundreds of others today and thought about all this. People talking about their thoughts and feelings. What are my thoughts and feelings? My thought is “the recovery is taking forever, I want to move on”, and my feelings are “grief and loss and sadness and happiness”.
Those 20 seconds on February 22nd 2011 changed everything. We can’t go back and the way forward will be slow. That’s reality for me.