Dear Christchurch

Yesterday as I watched the footage and read the headlines about the Christchurch earthquake I recalled, in a dumstruck state, the exact feelings I experienced a 12 year old girl watching images of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centres. I sat speechless, staring at my iPhone squinting at the small headlines as the waterline in my eyes slowly, steadily rose to spilling point and starred in shock, half taking in the words that appeared on the screen.

It is times like these we want to be angry, and by all means we are allowed to be. Peoples lives have been changed forever. People have been killed and some spent the night in a state of horror I cannot fathom, trapped under rubble and debris. Some have made it out – others have not.

Unlike the September 11 tragedies, there is no one to blame this time. No one deliberatley set out to cause an earthquake, and no one could stop the natural disaster that occurred even if they had tried – which I am sure, in true Kiwi spirit, people would have if they could – and so instead of pointing the finger at someone, the space that would be filled with hatred if there was a someone to blame, is instead filled with a deep set feeling of hopelessness.

I am thankful that none of my friends or family have been seriously hurt physically by the 22nd of February, 2011. I am sorry, from the depths of myself though, for the emotional pain they have undergone, and still had to wake up to this morning as I rose comfortably in my bed in Melbourne. I can only liken it to the feeling of being cured of the common cold of an earthquake of last September, to be told of the cancer like one of yesterday afternoon.

I have cried a lot in the last twenty four hours. I have no blood family in Christchurch, however it matters not if I am to believe in the truth of John Donne’s famous statements that “no man is an island,” and that “any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind,” which I do believe whole heartedly. I have close friends who in the last 24 hours have seen horror, chasing up months of reparation and frayed nerves from the last round of quakes, that neither they nor I would wish on any person.

I wish that for a day the newspapers would leave you be Christchurch. That the photographers and journalists – though I am thankful for the brave and noble job they do of telling us how things are going, would simply let you have a moment to pause in all the destruction of lives that has happened around you, and sit. There is a tradition in a Middle Eastern culture that when tragedy strikes a family, someone will go and sit with that family of the deceased or tragedy stricken person. They go, and in soft and peaceful silence, they sit. Nothing is said – nothing needs to be, but the simple act of sitting quietly speaks volumes. I wish I could go and sit with you, and mourn for a time Christchurch.

In New Zealand a tragedy for one city is a tragedy for the entire nation. With a confirmed death toll of 39 and rising (the words of a Johnny Cash song, quite sadly, come to mind) hundreds of lives have been changed by the shifting of tectonic plates. I left work early yesterday feeling utterly hopeless and helpless, and thinking of my friends and family back “home,” who had friends and family affected more seriously than mine, and as I said my afternoon goobyes to my collegues believe me Christchurch, the whole of my workplace wanted to close the doors and come to see you, and to sit.

A caring woman from my church who phoned to ask if my family and friends were okay, expressing her deepest sorrow, wanted to come and see you, and to sit. 

The kind mother at work yesterday who noticed I wasn’t my usual self, and held my hand as I began to cry telling me I should go home, wanted to come and sit with you.

I wish I could give you lots of money Christchurch.
I don’t have the skills of a tradesman who could help rebuild your beautiful old city, and I can’t tell you there wont be any more aftershocks – my God, I wish I could. But I can tell you that in this very bleak time, though you stand on shaky ground – you do not stand alone. The people in this world are too good to let you, and I hope, beyond hope, that in some way that can begin to rebuild your spirits.

So on behalf of everyone who cannot be there to sit with you, but so very much longs to, all of my love and inter-Tasman hand holding,

Catherine Sietkiewicz.

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3 thoughts on “Dear Christchurch

  1. Beautiful! I have passed this on to a few people. My boss was talking about something similar today. Here are more details on the practice if anyone wants them http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shiva_(Judaism). I have also forwarded it on to the crew at Life FM. Hopefully it can offer some form of help to the listeners.
    Thanks for your beautiful words.

  2. I am from Christchurch and I really appreciate what you have said Catherine, thank you for caring. I live in a less damaged part of town but from my visits to the devastated suburbs, the people I have met are hanging together really well. Its funny that it takes a disaster to bring communities together, but that is what is happening here. Kia kaha.

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