Thursday, February 23, 2012


At midday on 22 February 2011, I had less than 30 tweets. Yes, 3-0. I was on my lunchbreak, but hadn’t left the office.  Instead I was chatting to @saralynam on facebook who’d recently moved to London.  She told me to swap to twitter and she’d show me the ropes.

I only followed a handful of people on twitter, one of whom was my friend @mattymcleanTVNZ.  All of a sudden he tweeted that there had been another quake in Christchurch at 12.51pm.  It didn’t seem too out of the ordinary.  Then Matty tweeted that he was being flown by helicopter to Christchurch to report on it, that there had been some major damage, possibly to the Cathedral.  Apparently the earthquake had a magnitude of 6.3.

As a news junkie, my interest was piqued.  Surely not? No way…the Cathedral couldn’t have suffered any damage. That just seemed so unlikely.  It was such a solid looking building, and it had stood there for decades.  I opened up the "stuff" and "yahoo" websites, but they were taking what seemed like ages to update information. 

Grandma & I outside the Cathedral in 2001

And then there was a flurry of information. Twitter, facebook, news websites, television, started coming in from all directions. Mother Nature had dealt a cruel blow to Christchurch, the city known in New Zealand "The Garden City", and internationally as "the most English-looking city outside of England".  Our family had spent Christmas there 19 times, and we'd had numerous other holidays in Christchurch after my Grandparents had moved there in the mid-seventies.

I'd never heard of the Pyne Gould Corporation (PGC) building or the CTV building, but both had suffered serious damage.  The PGC building had pancaked. Pancaked? Wtf did that mean? And liquifaction? What the hell was that?

And, then the worst of all news started filtering in. People had died. One, two, eighteen, thirty-six people had been killed by falling masonary.  More than forty...fifty...sixty...seventy people had died. There may have been up to one hundred lost lives. No way. Not  in my beloved Christchurch.
* * *
A year has now passed.  The anniversary was marked beautifully in Christchurch, throughout New Zealand and indeed around the world.  In total, one hundred and eighty-five people lost their lives...ordinary people going about their ordinary stuff on an ordinary February day. Numerous other people suffered horrific injuries requiring amputation and on-going medical care.  Thousands and thousands of people lost their homes, livelihoods, possessions and pets.

But we gained something.  We gained a real sense of community.  We gained belief that as a nation, we will get through this together.  We will continue to provide support where needed for all affected Cantabrians and family and friends of victims around the world.

Christchurch, we are with you.  You will always be in our thoughts and hearts. 

And to those one hundred and eighty-five people...I listened to each and every one of your names as they were read out yesterday during the service.  May you rest in peace.

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