Wednesday, 2 April 2014
The time I fell apart in Christchurch
Before I reached Christchurch, I thought I had a good understanding of what I'd find. It may have been three years since the infamous earthquake hit the city, but local news had informed me that this place was still knee deep in rubble, insurance backlog and major construction.
We arrived in the early evening, travelling all day by coach. After walking (what seemed like miles) to our motel, me and Zim decided to go for a walk around the city centre, or the 'red zone' as it has become known. It was a beautiful Sunday evening; a sure sign that summer was on its way. In this once bustling city centre, the scene was the closest to apocalyptic I have ever seen. Some areas were completely cleared, you'd never of suspected a multi-story building, filled with busy offices, once lived. Other areas were just mounds of rubble, chaperoned by bull dozers and cranes. Then there were the derelict buildings, with half missing chunks. Some buildings seemed totally intact, and yet, they were completely abandoned.
As all the construction workers were away from this scene, the place was deserted. We shared the streets with a few people, just shapes in the distance. This, in the biggest city in the South Island. Perhaps it was due to the time and day we came to Christchurch and the still weather, but my first impression of Christchurch was eerie.
Over the next few days we went about our business and got things done. I had my breast biopsy and ultrasound, we found a cool 'scaffold' bar to drink in and hung out in the botanical gardens, which I must say, are the most beautiful public gardens I've been to in a long time. But it’s an incident near a busy road that will stay with me forever...
So being the tourists we are, we went looking for the Cardboard Cathedral. After the demise of the Cathedral, a pop up one was quickly constructed to help the community in their time of need. It’s not every day you see a cardboard building, so we went off through the devastated city.
About a block from the Cathedral, we found the memorial. There are many memorials in Christchurch but this one stopped me in my tracks. On a cleared area stood nearly 200 white chairs; 185 to be exact. It seemed every type of chair possible stood in that area. Stools, rocking chairs, modern style and antique all placed together.
Its when I saw the baby seat that I just lost my shit and begun to cry; in broad daylight, in the middle of the street. Try as I might, the tears wouldn't stop.
A chair for every person who lost their lives, tailored to their age, personality and lifestyle.
The abandoned red zone was creepy, but this was the real tragedy from the earthquake.
I have seen many memorials throughout the world, whether its for a great battle praising sacrefice and valor, or a dedication to a local legend, but nothing has hit me as hard as this one. The artist showed such dedication and care for the victims, to show that they were not just a number, that they lived, breathed, felt and loved.
In that moment I felt the unfairness of it all, that this could happen and there was no one to blame.
I would never take away my visit to Christchurch. A wounded city, that has lost so much but felt so very human, with its regeneration, ongoing construction and wish to honor its loved ones