The Waiting Place.

Kiwi kids are presented with a prime opportunity for plagiarism this week. Classrooms across the country string bendy posters from the roof, laminated pictures line overly stapled walls and clipped articles scatter assigned desk tables. The air is weighted with reflection. Teachers sigh in staffrooms, compare secondary experiences over weak cups of Earl Grey, and construct strategic answers to difficult questions. Everywhere a giant over-arching theme emerges from book-bags and homework books, gaining strength with every mention and producing a question hanging heavy like an overdue library fine: What happens now, One-year on from the February 2011 Earthquake?

If you were old enough to understand plagiarism, maybe you could capitalise on it. Perhaps a deliberate move by Primary School teachers then, in excluding it on this week’s spelling list. In an attempt to gain authentic insight into a child’s perception of the Canterbury Earthquake memorial, New Zealand Primary schoolers have politely been asked to pen (or possibly pencil, that would depend on your licence), a homework paragraph describing “What’s happening in Christchurch for the One-year anniversary and what does it mean to you?” Come Monday morning many teachers around the country will get what they asked for.

For adults, the Christchurch One-year anniversary is like reaching a 50th birthday. It’s a mixed milestone to make. But whether weighted heavier toward sadness or for hope which lies ahead, a date is set on the calendar. Inevitable and fixed. A 50th sneaks up quicker than expected, lurking in a sneaky- suit during the final years of forty. A One-year anniversary for Christchurch must feel like a birthday which is unwanted but is also without the softening of immediate celebration. There is still so much work to be done. Houses are demolished and lives scattered. Being “red-zoned” is difficult, but being “white-zoned” means having absolutely no idea what will happen next, as has happened to many. People are frustrated and angry and there is no birthday cake to be seen. 

There’s no such thing as  instant gratification for a city one year on from experiencing “catastrophic devastation”. Thousands of aftershocks have shaped an almost daily reality for Cantabrians who for days, weeks and months now have been living through the unstoppable aftermath of chaos. One year would be a date circled in the diaries of many, but unlike some news media, not anticipated by most. One year is a milestone. A day to pay respect to those who lost their lives, support those who lost loved ones, whilst looking to the future of rebuilding a city with an influx of hope and together-ness. But just like a 50th birthday, the anniversary is a milestone Christchurch had no option but to come to terms with. I’d pick 49-year olds and Cantabrians would give both a miss had they the choice.

And so Canterbury waits. For visitors to flock and for visitors to disperse. For TVNZ and TV3 to negotiate camera placement, and for strangers to converse. For red-tape to become yellow-tape, and yellow-tape to become trees which are green, for the EQC to sort brand new city plans, for the imagined to become a reality and seen. For cranes and trucks and rebuilding machines to come and rebuild new roads, for student armies to dig and remove liquefaction from under toes. Everyone is juuuust waaaitiiing.

Shuffling into a board room for two minutes of silence today at 12:51pm, a strange wave of calm and stillness washed over a usually buzzing office. I saw pictures of the estimated 20,000 at Hagdley park, and wondered how many of them were Cantabrians and how many had travelled to pay their respect at the ceremony. At 12:51pm together as a nation we ignored iPhones, turned our back on updated emails and remembered exactly where we were one year ago. Personal memories are a powerful thing. But moments like the February 22nd Earthquake which was shared by an entire country, are indelible. Seared into national conciousness, we remember and we ask others to work out what it means to them, too. 

When you’re ten and asked to reflect, it’s easy to write what you think your teacher would expect. You say,  

It’s one year now, one year since the quake. 365 days have passed since that first fearful shake. And because it’s one year, and an anniversary, people are going to Christchurch, going there to see. Family and friends and strangers they’ll meet, biking through red-zones and stumbling down streets. Hunching and bunching and huddling in tight, some of them may cry a little, they mightn’t or they might. But wet eyes or dry ones, sniffy noses no matter how sniffy they may be, together in Christchurch they’ll stand, and with the rest of the country they will be. The quake struck when I was nine years old, and today I can say I’m ten. The people in Christchurch are so very strong, and they’ll get through - even if another earthquake does happen again.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18. As read by David Shearer at this morning's Memorial service. 


1 comment:

  1. SS-

    Thank you.

    For presenting in a different and creative way.

    What all are trying to bring light to today