Monday, February 22, 2021

Kate Hawkesby: The shared community in Christchurch post-quakes is unmistakable


Today marks 10 years since the second Christchurch earthquake.

An unforgettable event for every Cantabrian and indeed many others connected to the Garden City: those with family there, those with students there, those who once called Christchurch home.

But it was most horrific for those in the centre of it.

My sister moved to Christchurch in 2010. In the earthquake 10 years ago today, she lost her roof. It collapsed into her two year old son's bedroom along with other damage to her house.

She was driving her daughter home from kindy and she recalls the roads just opening up all around her- the road in front literally splitting in two before her eyes. Dust and rubble rising up all around the city, she says she very clearly remembers the sounds: an eerie silence, apart from endless sirens screeching through the city. No other noise, just sirens and silence.

People running, the colour drained from their faces, people running to their neighbours.. everyone racing to check on each other.

She recalls the powerful sense of community, of coming together, that in those moments of terror, there was so much kindness, so many people looking out for others.

With her home so badly damaged all her family could do was stand in the backyard staring in disbelief. Trying to make sense of something that made no sense at all.

My sister said up until that moment she’d always felt like an Aucklander who’d moved to Christchurch, but after that day everything changed. After that day she says, she was a Cantabrian.

Obviously many had it a lot, lot worse, and if you live in Christchurch you live with that collective heartbreak around you, but she says the sense of unity, in her community particularly, has stayed strong all these years.

On the one year anniversary of the quakes, she and two girlfriends went to get Kia Kaha tattooed on their wrists. She said to remind them of the power of staying strong. The power of carrying on. Seeing it through.

There's criticism of how slow the rebuild's been, how much is still unfinished. There's ongoing pain for those battling EQC, those who lost homes, businesses, loved ones.

But my sister says all that shared trauma, of getting anxious kids through it, of trying to put back together broken homes and businesses, of staying in the city they love, has forged an ongoing sense of unity among Cantabrians.

She’s proud of how Christchurch has pulled itself together, its stickability, its passion for the rebuild.

So today for her marks not only all the horrors of 10 years ago, but also the hope and the pride in what Christchurch is now, and the sense of shared community there is in the city she loves to call home.

Kate Hawkesby is a political broadcaster on Newstalk ZB - her articles can be seen HERE.

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