Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Holding up a mirror to the past...

Yesterday in lectures we had a visit from Hamish Clark from TV3,
to explain the process by which they choose and deliver the news.

As part of his telling his story, he played us footage that he took with his 
camera operator on February 22.

It was really difficult to watch it, having never seen any of the footage
because we didn't have power of course.
I kept scanning the crowds for glimpses of the kids I knew.

It was impossible to suppress the emotion that watching it brought up
and at first I felt angry that they had played it without warning us
and I couldn't see the value of it really.

But when I woke up this morning I realised that this is his job,
his job is to tell stories and he was sharing our stories of that day
and actually by playing the footage, 
he held a mirror up to show us how we were.

Looking back over the last three years, it's hard to recognise the people we were before,
it's impossible to remember exactly what our lives were like.

For myself, I realise that facing my worst fears has definitely made me stronger.
For example, I'm sure I would not be studying Sociology now
if it wasn't for the experience of the earthquakes.

I realised as I thought about the footage that we saw of that horrible horrible day,
that although it had been so difficult,
actually we have learned to manage and it has made us stronger.
It sounds like a cliche, but it turns out to be true.

It hasn't been fun for the last three years,
it has been truly difficult to witness the slow demolition of our city,
and to lose so much of what was so familiar.

But on a personal level we have learned to enjoy the little things,
so make sure that life is a mix of hard work and fun,
and to know where our real strength lies.

So even though is was painful to watch the footage of the scared and frightened 
people in the city on February 22, it was kind of cool to realise
that even thought we were frightened,
we were actually way stronger than we ever realised.

I wonder if we can keep these lessons in our hearts
as we move forward to the future.


  1. Someone from Christchurch recently told me that none of you had seen that TV footage. I was astonished but of course it makes sense.

    I was at my desk at work and thought I'd just check Twitter before heading to Whitcoulls to get something. And I saw a tweet that the Christchurch Catherdral has collapsed. As you can imagine it was the strangest thing I've ever read - and then all these other tweets about an earthquake. I turned to my boss and told him what I'd read and we stared at each other in wonder and shock.

    That afternoon we comforted the people in our office from Christchurch who struggled to find out how their families were and just wanted to be there.

    Then for the next hours and days and weeks we watched non-stop TV and media until our eyeballs were dry. It was stunning and shocking and compelling.

    Someone I'd done work with but had never met died in the CTV building, which was emotionally weird. And we watched people on TV keep vigil there and waited as we learnt that people were still in the PGB Building. None of those places were particularly familiar and you had to constantly remind yourself this was Christchurch.

    It was such a weird day and so weird now to learn the rest of us were completely over-saturated in news and media coverage when you all know nothing.

  2. I did get to see that footage on the day - amazingly, the power didn't go off in our suburb, so when I got home my partner was watching it all unfold on TV. That was the strangest experience - seeing such horrific destruction and terror on TV and knowing it was happening right here in my own city, only a few km from where I sat. Even though the aftershocks that shook the camera were shaking our house too, I struggled to convince myself that it was really happening, and I wasn't just watching a movie.

    But re-watching any of the footage from that day still brings a knot to my stomach and a tear to my eye. I'm surrounded by earthquake images all day in my job (I work for the CEISMIC archive), but their power to shock doesn't diminish. A terrible terrible day for our city, but you're right, one that gave us such strength.

  3. I don't like to watch that footage either because my husband pops up in it from time to time and he's never really talked to me about those nights. He worked out of Latimer Sq and was at the CTV building right through the night of the 22nd. He came home the next morning covered in grime and smelling of smoke and looked at me with haunted eyes and didn't say anything. I see his photo in old newspaper coverage and there's a shot of him working in the earthquake book. And we were so removed from it all in a suburb which didn't lose water or power, where life carried on very much as it had before except suddenly everything outside of us had changed and those changes quickly smashed their way into our smug and secure little lives. It's hard to explain what school became like... 700 traumatized kids day after day, going through the motions, hiding under tables during the constant aftershocks, trying to be brave when they were afraid and really being scared as witless as the kids were. Our school is about to be knocked down. Our house still isn't fixed. Life still feels very much in limbo.

  4. I'll never forget the feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach when I finally managed to get out of Stitch (where I was working and got trapped) and look down Colombo St - the spire that should have been there was just gone. I immediately thought of all the tourists that go up and down that spire every day - of the crowds that used to be in the square at lunchtime, of my friends working in the brick building that housed my studio - how could it still be standing if the cathedral wasn't?

    Being trapped in a building by myself with constant aftershocks, no phone/cell phone is hands down the scariest thing I've ever had to go through - I think I shy away from seeing footage, particularly of the collapsed buildings for this reason.

    I do want to see that doco "When a City Falls" - I hear its really good. I might wait a few more years before I brave it ;)

  5. Oh god I feel for you, this made me cry and I wasn't there.

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