Thursday, February 24, 2011

Christchurch revisited

I heard about the latest earthquake in a typical understated way.
One of my Christchurch workmates emailed "Big earthquake about an hour ago, having issues with communications, please start emergency management team right away".

I was in Wellington, doing some pretesting for planned work later that evening. An hour later all national planned work was canceled, and we stood in shock as the television news showed us the damage.

Within 24 hours, we had filled our vehicle with as much food and water as we could carry, and caught the ferry to the South Island. Stopping in Blenheim, we hired a trailer and purchased over 300 litres of fuel, before continuing on to Christchurch.

We arrived in the city as darkness fell. One of us dashed home to recover his household items, and ended up pitching a tent in his front lawn for the night. Another settled in to the night shift, while I took a car and headed to my aunts to grab some sleep.

Today we worked through a myriad of issues trying to keep our cellular network up for emergency services and our customers. You see the best of people in times like this - people reaching out to help complete strangers. You see rules being bent, so that something that might take a week, can now take a day. You feel that on days like today, as a species, we might actually have long term prospects.

Though it all we now refuse to watch the news - we know the suffering - we work to help. Seeing the coverage would make the issues seem too big to overcome - it's important to know that this city is not dying. Many people have died, and that is very sad, but many more have survived; have homes to live in, while power and running water are slowly being restored.

I'm not sure about the role of the media at times like this. I'm torn between highlighting the needs of the people who live here, and their privacy. Many of the people I feel are being taken advantage of - I wonder if they will be angry when they look back. I just don't know.

Tomorrow we may have enough hot water for showers. I might be able to wash my clothes - I originally planned to be in Wellington for only 2 days and packed light.
We will make more progress tomorrow, and the city will respond in kind. There will be much more good than bad, and this community will grow through it all.

Christchurch will endure; if only those outside believe, as we believe.

Have some faith in us. Please.


Jacie said...

Hi Mark I've been checking in regularly to see if you're ok so am very glad to hear that you are. That's a powerful and beautiful post and what's lovely about it is that it's full of hope and positivity not to mention the sheer eloquence of the writing.
My thoughts and prayers are with you all x

Cian said...

I'll second Jacie in saying I'm glad you posted and that you are ok.

Not only do I feel sorry for the people for their loses, I also feel sorry for them in that so much work was done on the City since Sept and now a lot of that work is back to square one. Strength is required to start over again and I am sure people will. When I visited back in November, I saw the rebuilding efforts and how much damage was done in the City, and how people were getting on with their lives. This time I can't really imagine it.

The Media's role is an interesting one. With the online world we now have access to both official and unofficial media 24 hours a day, right as things are happening. While this can be beneficial for example letting people know to evacuate in times of crisis, but it makes the management of information more difficult. We hear about 15 people being rescued. Shortly later we hear that was incorrect. Sources can and always will make mistakes (and are not to blame), but without any lag people get their hopes up and then that hope is taken away again. Quality standards in journalism also has taken a dive with one news outlet trying to deliver the "breaking news" before another in a competitive world.

Anyway look after yourself, stay safe, and do what you can to help others.

Mark J said...

Thanks for the lovely comments guys. I'll write again soon - when I'm not so shattered. The long days are starting to catch up - I need to get some sleep :)