Inside the Red Zone…
Please excuse this post, it doesn’t seem to portray it as well as I imagnised. But if nothing else, and as if you hadn’t seen enough photos, I hope it gives another insight into our devestated city.
Well today was a surreal moment. Those in the PWC Building were invited into the Red Zone to spend an hour and a half in the building retrieving whatever we could in that time. We met at the Basilica (which in itself is sad to look at) and were required to sign in, provide ID, and the don the hard hats and hi-vis before jumping on a bus and given a safety briefing, not to dissimilar than those on a plane; “In the unlikely event of an earthquake…” Good to see the sense of humour still simmers below the pain.
|At the checkpoint – stark reminder of
what we were in for
|Munn’s Menswear on Armargh – been around since the
dawn of time, survived the last quake.
I bought my wedding suit from here late last year.
Driving through town, up Barbadoes and into Armargh (avoiding the obvious area near the Grand Chancellor) it was like a scene out of The Quiet Earth…the only people we saw were the odd Police Officers and Army personnel manning cordons, and as light relief, a small portable kitchen providing meals for those still working inside “Checkpoint Charlie”. Everywhere there were signs of what used to be buildings, but you couldn’t for the life of you think of what was there…more what wasn’t there if that makes sense?
Above left; tenants and USAR wait outside PWC
Above right; view from our floor, looking east up Armargh St – this is the start of the “Arts District”
Above left; view from our floor looking north, Avon River in foreground, punting shed to right. The pile of rubble is what is left of the PGC Building.
Above right; PGC site – no words can describe it, none needed.
We pulled up outside PWC, on Armargh, and the first thing you notice is the quiet…Armargh is a busy thoroughfare, with banks, office blocks, and famous landmarks such as New Regent St (which has the tram running right through it), Copenhagen’s Bakery, Munn’s Menswear, and Costa’s Souvlaki. You can never find a park here, let alone be the only one in the queue at Yellow Rockets for a coffee, in the Burrito house, or for a trim at Bojangles. And yet apart from us, and a few engineers and USAR escorts, it was reminiscent of the aftermath of a nuclear bomb. Literally.
Above left; view south. The building in the middle is the Cathedral, to the right it’s spire would normally dominate this view, standing as tall as the building to the right.
Above right; looking south-east, Manchester St. Came worst off in Sept 10, what survived then wasn’t so lucky this time round.
We then walked up the thirteen flights to our floor (the building is 20 floors, and some were going up there!) and I have to admit, the devastation on our floor was minimal considering what you see around you at ground level. Sure, things have tipped onto the floor, filing cabinets on their sides, light fittings and roof panels smashed here and there, but relatively little. There were seven of us, and we had our own backpacks for our personal belongings and then anything else was what we could carry down and place into nine wheelie bins provided to us that would be trucked back to the check in point.
Above left; south, towards the tram depot at the bottom of New Regent
Above right; Part of New Regent – the tram travels through here – the cleared rubble from the right is from Sept 10
Above left; The famous Copenhagen’s Bakery – you could barely get a seat in here, let alone one of their famous pies as they were always sold out before you got in. Note the footpath in front, sunken from liquefaction.
Above right; Jake and Katie take a rest from doing the stairs.
Left; that famous window in the Forsythe Barr Building
Above; Westpac, corner of Armargh and Colombo
So, I was done quickly, and moved my attention to the essentials. I lugged 14 dozen beers and two cases of wine (oh yeah, and some snacks from the Friday Night stash) and prepared them for being taken back down. We were only to go down and back up one at a time, so it took some time to get stuff shipped to the street, and furniture was not allowed in case of blocking the stairwell in another shake. Shame, we left four large screen TVs, copiers, faxes, couches, stereos, chairs, desks…well, the list is endless.
|Above; the Burrito house
Left; Me and Morne show off the new season’s fashions
Above left; New Regent St. We used to have Friday drinks and nibbles in the restaurant to the right. Great noodle house a bit further up. Our favourite coffee shop is right, out of shot, and Costa’s left out of shot.
Above right; Calendar Girls, local strip club. Makes you wonder who came out these windows, and in what state of dress…
|A poignant shot of a flag
lowered to half mast.
With about 20mins to go, we were pretty much done, a lot of stuff was to be left behind and didn’t seem worth recovering, and with the help of our ‘minders’, we lugged the remaining gear *and booze!) down the stairs to place in the bins…imagine the cheers from those on other floors as we trudged out with arms full of booze…good old fashioned ribbing followed; “How do we get a job at Vodafone?”, “Your shout!”, “Good to see the important things were saved!”.
With the bins loaded up and placed onto the trucks, we had a bit of time to chat to other tenants, share stories, look at the immediate area, take some shots…and then on the bus again and back to the Basilica.
It was an odd afternoon…not what I thought; at no time did I feel insecure, scared, worried. But at the same time, I cannot say I felt entirely normal or comfortable, sort of like a kid being weaned off his security blanket. What I knew and was part of the landscape had changed, maybe irreparably, maybe forever, and even if it were restored, would it, or could it, ever be the same?
Time heals all wounds, but some pain cuts right to the core.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n.