22 February: A Day for Reflection

We Cantabrians have, hundreds of times, told each other what we were doing, what we thought, what we did on 4 September 2010, 22 February  2011, 13 June 2011, 23 December 2011.  “4 September”, “22 February” and so on are how we name those earthquakes. We all know what years we are talking about.

But most of all, 22 February.  I was in Paper Plus, Rangiora, to buy my weekly copy of the Listener – and said to the shop assistant “well that was the worst one since 4 September” and bought the magazine as I headed back to the office.  Already, the staff were setting up the Emergency Operations Centre. A TV was wheeled in and the horror of what was going on in Christchurch rapidly unfolded. The streets of Rangiora rapidly emptied, shops shut up – and when I got down to Kaiapoi, found the same thing had happened there.

Spending the rest of the afternoon and into the evening in Kaiapoi and Pines-Kairaki there were relatively few people on the streets anywhere.  Apart from in those houses that had been abandoned after September, I came to the conclusion that most people were inside watching their TVs – or struggling to get home from their Christchurch workplaces.

One of the young girls in the video shown at the service this afternoon said we in Canterbury are only two degrees separated from each other.  I personally knew only one person killed that day and had met one other – but I know a number more who lost family or friends.  Most of us are like that and that is why we felt the loss of the 185 so deeply.

Another thing about 22 February is that along with the buildings, at least one illusion was shattered: that we had survived the big one, and that the aftershocks would get progressively less severe. We were wrong – and 13 June and 23 December have further eroded our confidence.  Or maybe not.  It is human to hope and I think most of us still have that.

One of the moving events this afternoon was the release of 185 Monarch butterflies.  One settled and sat for quite a while in front of me, so I photographed it with my phone (it’s above).

I like to think it was Paul’s.

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