Saturday, November 13, 2010

You are not Alone

I’m not a Michael Jackson fan but the words of his song, You are not Alone, have been drumming through my head for the last few weeks. I was thinking of them at 1:34am this morning when a 4.7 magnitude aftershock awoke me. As the house rattled, banged and shook, my thoughts turned to neighbours and residents of Christchurch. There’s hundreds of thousands of people out there, wondering like me when this is all going to stop. There was comfort in knowing I’m not alone.

It’s ten weeks since the 7.1 magnitude earthquake and in that time, I’ve travelled twice to Auckland and Invercargill, three times to Dunedin and have also visited Wellington, Balclutha, Kaikoura, Blenheim, Picton and a number of other small towns. As soon as people hear I’m from Christchurch they show genuine concern and ask how the city is doing; how I’m doing and how strong the aftershocks have been. I’ve also seen signs of financial support in these places. Malls have signs up, stores have collection boxes full of notes and I’ve been asked by staff in several towns if I would like to make a donation.

Initially I thought that travelling would give me a break from the earthquake stress. However, I’ve discovered that although I’ve left Christchurch physically since the quake, it has not left me. I see the city centre in the old red brick buildings in Invercargill. I see demolished stores in the rusty scrap metal site south of Dunedin. I feel aftershocks when wind gusts shake the buildings in Wellington and when trains throb in and out of Britomart. I see cratered tarmac in the road-works in Blenheim. I see destruction behind scaffolding and damage marked by traffic cones and fences.

With the constant reminders of what we’ve been through, it feels good to know we are not alone. Finances have poured into Christchurch from around the country and further afield and skilled men and women have joined forces with locals to clean up, repair and rebuild our city. Our scarred landscape is slowly becoming the new normal: broken roofs patched with plastic, 17,000 chimneys toppled, roads with cracks, wrinkles and ripples, stores boarded up, walls braced with steel supports, churches surrounded by mounds of rubble. You cannot help but feel emotional.

Many people have struggled with feelings of helplessness since the earthquake – so much destruction, so much damage and seemingly so little the average person can do. Apart from writing about the disaster, I’ve found another small way to contribute to our recovery. I headed into Christchurch-central early on the morning of the earthquake and took dozens of photos of the damage ... and followed up by returning frequently to capture the changes. I’ve used these in news articles and blogs and have also turned them into a coffee-table book, fridge magnets and mugs. I’m selling them through Trade Me and I know they have been sent as far afield as South Africa, England and the USA. All the profits go to the Red Cross Earthquake Appeal.

As the weeks turn into months and the months into years, our city will heal, buildings will be restored, new ones will arise and the altered cityscape will become familiar. Aftershocks will dwindle, memories will fade, and life will go on. As it says in Ecclesiastes 3: There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens ... a time to tear down and a time to build ... a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them ... a time to tear and a time to mend.

Truly we are not alone.


  1. Thanks for reminding us to pray for those around the world that are experiencing things like this. Sometimes if it doesn't happen where you live, you don't think about it. I've never experienced an earthquake. And thanks for reminding us that we are never alone!

  2. Debbie that was a touching blog post to say the least. May God be with all who are suffering from natural and even man-made disasters all over the world. May God be with residents of Christchurch.

    It's really inspiring to see how you are using the written word and photos to help gather funds for the quake victims.

    Yes, we are never alone and never wanting till there are good people around the world who have a genuine desire to help their community!

  3. Hi Debbie, I was talking with a friend who was in Christchurch recently for a book promotion and I'm sure it was your name she mentioned. If so, congrats!