I have a friend in New Zealand. She and I went to college together, and I just reconnected with her this past December. She’s okay, she does not live in Christchurch so she and her students only felt the quake with minimal interruption and damage. She wrote a mass e-mail to her friends and family in the States which made me think about how interconnected we all are in this world, and how fragile those connections can be in the face of disasters–both natural and man-made. I am going to quote liberally from her, because her words speak for themselves:
“ . . . A few of [my students] have family members injured and damaged homes, which is obviously a worry for them.This is so much worse than the September quake. Although smaller on the Richter scale, it was shallower, and closer to the city center. The epicenter was in Lyttleton . . . the September quake happened at 4:35 am, and we had no deaths. This quake occurred during the lunch hour. Several buildings have collapsed. One, the Canterbury TV building, caught fire. After 24 hours, the rescue effort was abandoned, as they felt that there was no hope of any survivors, and the search and rescue teams were reassigned – heartbreaking for those who have family and friends inside. There are 6 sites where they know there are people trapped. The official death toll is, at last count 75, There are 300 missing. This is not as hopeless as it sounds, as communication is iffy at best. I think – but those are only those who have been identified and next of kin notified. We all fear that the toll will rise. NZ is a small place, and Christchurch is a smaller one. There are not 6 degrees of separation in New Zealand – there are maybe 2. I find it unlikely that many of us will find that we know no one killed or injured in this.Many houses in Lyttleton, Heathcote, Sumner and New Brighton have been destroyed – some falling in the quake, some destroyed by boulders rolling down from the Port Hills. Many of the buildings lost in Christchurch city are absolute icons – the Cathedral, the Catholic Cathedral, Provincial Chambers, the Time Ball Station in Lyttleton. Those of you who have been to Christchurch will not recognise it on your return – the cityscape has changed forever.Aftershocks continue to shake the area – here in Geraldine we only feel the ones that are bigger than 4, but in Christchurch they are more frequent, and increase the danger for those in damaged buildings. I have offered to house friends from Christchurch as many of the eastern suburbs (Bromley, Linwood, New Brighton, Aranui, Heathcote…(all places I lived or have friends) are without power. Water will continue to be an issue as much of the infrastructure is damaged. People have to boil water (if they have it) and even those with running water aren’t allowed to shower or flush the toilet to alleviate pressure on the system. At this point, no one is here, but as time goes on I could wind up running a refugee center here.For me – I feel a bit of “survivor’s guilt’ – that so many I know and care so much for are suffering so much – and my life goes on uninterrupted. There is also the surreal experience of watching the scenes on television. It is easy, I think, to get disaster fatigue – oh look, another flood, another earthquake, another fire… and then there is the realisation – that this is, in fact, your city, a place you’ve called home – not some unknown city in a far away place.. . .Please keep the people of Christchurch in your thoughts and/or prayers. They are doing it hard and will be for a long time after the cameras are gone.
I’m glad my friend is safe, but this has made me think about the web of interconnectedness that I have often written about. My web grows daily, as I make new friends through the world of blogging. Some of them have touched me more than they know, by welcoming me into their lives, their stories and their pictures. We may never meet in reality, but I still consider them part of my web. Stories like my friends make me want to do more to help the people I don’t know, the ones connected to me by only a few degrees of separation or maybe event several, as well as the ones tied to me by a single invisible thread.
I have a friend in New Zealand. I have a friend in Haiti. I have friends all over the world. How can I help?
For some beautiful pictures of Christchurch before the destruction read this lovely, Freshly Pressed blog.