01 March 2011

Changed, Utterly Changed: A Thoughtful Post

Consider NYC before The Towers fell.
Consider New Orleans before Katrina.

Look around you. What would it all look like if violently shaken, destabilized from foundation up, then encased in silt and sewage?

How would you cope without ATMs, coffee, TV, Internet and a toilet? Your car may very well be entombed in a parking garage that may have pancaked into a solid mass half the height it used to be. Hope you didn't leave anything important in it.

Such is life in Christchurch. Still better than Haiti, but, at the very least, inconvenient and exhausting; at the most, heart and gut wrenching.

Noelle McCarthy wrote well in The NZ Herald this week, saying, 
"There is a scale to measure earthquakes, but how do you quantify their toll? Where do we start? Amid the rubble and the timber, the splayed foundations, the wounded and the lost? The falling rocks, the blasted Cathedral, the men in fluoro bearing stretchers of the dead?
We start with the people. The people of Christchurch, divided for now into the rescued, and their rescuers, the survivors, and the lost. The people who have suffered so unfairly, we begin by acknowledging their loss.

We watched agog, those first appalling images from the city centre as dazed Cantabrians became people on the run, racing past wailing car alarms and away from falling masonry, jumping off footpaths, diving out of harm's way, desperately trying to get home.
... It was raining in Auckland, a wild end-of-summer rain. I took a bus up Queen St and everywhere I looked was carnage and despair.

Not really, thank God, the pictures were just in my mind. Queen St was teeming, crazy, safe as houses. A thousand miles away Christchurch was riven and Auckland felt obscenely unscathed.

By then we knew about the people who died on the buses. I imagined the Whitcoulls Building in Victoria St coming down around us, Smith & Caugheys, the Old St James. Why should it be them and not us, here, on the number 24? That simple geography could decide that fact seems too cruel.

... The people of Christchurch are just people, the same as us. We share their humanity at the most basic level, we're all mortal, all hopelessly fragile in the same way.

We know this with certainty now, after Christchurch. I tried to be nicer to the people on my bus.

We start with the people. We finish with them too. Nothing else matters, not buildings, not possessions, the places we make our homes. Only people. He Tangata.

"All is changed, changed utterly," the great poet of collapse, William Yeats, wrote.  by Noelle McCarthy


No comments: