On Monday this week I applied to have Wed, Thurs & Fri off to work on my draft. I really, really wanted it to be done by the end of Feb so I didn’t have to panic about it. Let’s face it first drafts are vital but messy so it really was just a matter of getting the information down so you can polish it in to something that is practically unidentifiable to the original form.
Then as most of you will know the earthquake hit Tuesday lunchtime, half an hour before Nat and I would normally do our lunchtime stair climbing. Here in Wellington it was just a gentle sway on the 21st floor where we are. I actually wasn’t sure I’d felt anything at first and promptly went onto the Geonet site online to see if I had felt one. There wasn’t an update for a couple of minutes and then one came through. At first I was confused because it said it was in Christchurch and on Monday not Tuesday. Then my brain clicked in.
It said Monday – international time. And the reason it said Christchurch was because what we’d felt had just been the tail end of a monster shake. I stared open mouthed at the screen when I read the depth – 5km – and knew instantly that was far too shallow to be good. Living in NZ and on the ring of fire means most of us are aware of what a big quake looks like.
I jammed on my headset (receptionist) and hurried out the back via the kitchen. The caterers were lounging there waiting for the meeting in the boardroom to break so they could take in the next course. One glance at my white face had them crowding close. It felt awful telling and watching their faces flinch and pale. Out the back in the retail section there was an ominous silence and all my colleagues were flicking shocked glances at each other. We couldn’t turn on the TV yet as it needed to be turned on in the Boardroom first. The PA to our CEO was in hushed conversation with my manager and I realised from the snippets I heard that our Christchurch staff were stuck in their building. The staircase had collapsed and they were on the 12 floor.
The next few hours were tense as the meeting broke for lunch and members of the meeting scrambled for phones to check for loved ones and colleagues. It was such a shock because the September earthquake we’d snuck through and now, right now in front of us, buildings were crumpled. Toppled like a child’s toy. As we watched the live footage an aftershock hit and pieces of the cathedral sheared off before our eyes. People screamed and ran. It was unreal.
These three days off have felt like ten. I’ve managed to get all of twelve pages typed. Every few minutes my fingers would sneak from the keyboard to the mouse and I’d be scanning the news sites before I knew it. Tears slipping down my face as I read the horrific stories while my fists were clenched with the aching desire to help.
So close! Yet so, so far away.
From the news sites to Facebook and twitter, reading all the things I could do to help. Volunteering for Search and Rescue and getting the rushed reply of ‘thanks, you and hundreds others are on the list’. So I guess this is what happens. This is what everyone who survives a disaster, natural or otherwise goes through.
And these things happen every single day. They shatter the lives of a select group and it reverberates out till those on the very outer feel sympathy and share hope but otherwise go on with their lives. It makes you feel ridiculously guilty for all the times you glanced at the paper and felt that ‘ooo’ of sympathy. And then turned the page.
But this is what we do. And it’s what we’re meant to do. Survive. Re-work plans. Change situations. Adapt. It’s what makes humans such a voracious species. The harder the fall the bigger the lesson.
And through it all one thing remains constant. We need each other. Without each other we can’t survive. As independent as we might like to be we cannot live without one another.
What lesson do I learn from all this? Be grateful. And be helpful. Volunteer to help others because one day you may need it. Learn the basics to survive and have your disaster kit ready. And most importantly, cherish life. Yes your world may be turned upside down but others no longer exist. They no longer have the option of stepping up to another challenge thrown to them by life. Challenge is what makes us thrive and one way or another, we will survive. Hug those who live and remember those who don’t and honour their memories by surviving. And thriving.
…okay I really shouldn’t drink coffee this late…..
Take care all! And never leave an argument unfinished – you’d hate not to have the chance to tell that person you cared for them again..
p.s – I’m finishing the draft by the end of March – am off to bake for the bake-off event