A year on…the alfmeister remembers
I feel odd. I can’t really put my finger on it.
For a person who is relatively tuned to his senses and emotions, I am struggling to explain how I feel right now.
A year ago I felt the same way.
Stunned. Shocked. And definitely numb.
But never was I scared. And this sometimes gets me odd looks from the people who ask me “how is it all going?”
That afternoon it didn’t matter if you were a CEO, a taxi driver, a tourist, a labourer, or as one man I met, a bum. On Feb 22 we were just people, standing side by side, knee-deep in rubble and water and what we now know as liquefaction with a common purpose; helping others so that they may, like us, go home to families and friends, have a beer, walk the dog, worry about bills and if our kids were being brought up right.
And all the time, perched high up on ladders scrabbling through bricks and mortar, or down at the banks of the iconic Avon building a make-shift morgue, the aftershocks continued; each one as violent as the last, all the time checking our progresses and wondering if it would be the one that ‘had your name on it’. Glances at other people’s reactions showed the same; if you run, I will too. But you don’t want to run first. Don’t want to admit the fear. Don’t want to be the one who breaks the Cantab code.
But as I said. I was never scared. Well, at least not for myself.
However I was for my wife, Katie, stuck in Wellington delirious with worry and unable to contact me or the kids and still feels guilty at not being there; and my eldest daughter Deanna who would wake screaming in the night if I so much as bumped into the wall on my way to bed in the dark. Yep, my fear extended out to them, and to others who I saw break down, cry, scream, or oddly enough, seemed impassive like me.
And now we approach a year on, 10,000 more ‘events’ and aftershocks and the city and its people are moving on.
Or are they?
My youngest, Renee, completely oblivious to the whole earthquake paranoia from that day in September became a new generation to be affected with the shakes prior to Christmas, screaming from her cot at her Nana’s place.
“Lambie (her teddy) was hitting me!” she screamed. Lambie, was apparently beating the crap out of her in bed. It seemed an ideal alternative to explaining the vagaries of tectonic plates and shifts. Even Katie, despite the year and a half we have endured, so strong beside me in making sure we wouldn’t be beaten completely lost it that day. Drinking enough wine to sedate a horse it couldn’t stop her crying, never dulled her senses as she sat bolt upright with every tremor ready to head for the door.
The media, with morbid curiosity pumped out stories of the area like some mass-produced product, but only showed the worst and the best of things. Someone killed by a string of bad coincidences, or a miraculous survival story; a house three-feet deep in grey glug, or a house seemingly blessed in a street devastated. There were sad stories, and happy stories, but not of those people I speak to.
Those like me.
People who just deal with it because they have no other choice. Those who as a result of the impact struggle to make sure the mortgage is covered, bills are paid, and food is put on the table. People who would rather now spend time with their kids rather than go to work, those who now cannot feel emotion about other shit happening in the world around them, well, except for Japan, of course.
But we cope, or at least I hope we do. People down here are less willing to talk about it now, the preference is to joke about it which suits me fine. Guessing the size as each one happens and making hollow bets with mates and colleagues. As insensitive as it may be, we couldn’t help but laugh at Auckland’s reaction to their own 2.9…sorry, we eat shakes like that for breakfast. Even Deanna and Renee don’t move from the TV for less than a 4.5.
I sit here in Auckland, again separated from the most important people in my life. How I feel is not known even to myself.
There will be tears, for those I never knew, and for the one I did . And for his widow and four kids.
The moment will soon pass, and I will move on.
We all have to.
It is just a matter of facing the reality of life. Get through it, deal with it, cope.
Basically, harden the fuck up.
But as always, there will be the prospect that no one is safe…anywhere.