Sunday, February 27, 2011

Rob's story from Christchurch

At another forum, Rob, a friend to Merc and I, posted of his experience of the earthquake in Christchurch and the aftermath. Rob works in video production and he is as good at that as he is a writing. With his permission I am re-posting his story.

Jeebus, party-time all round: only six kids sleeping in tents on the lawn tonight for the twins 10th (it was to have been 10 kids) but that seems enough. Fire and marshmallows and general insanity. It went ok though dynamics were tricky at times, and we didn't have much prepared. (That was ok- they played with the baby rabbits the twins have found, went to the beach and lifted rocks to bother crabs, etc.)
Still left me feeling a bit tense.
Psychologically, this quake has been a double whammy: the left jab in September, and now the right hook, the knock-out blow.
Leaves you feeling a bit helpless, a little drained and fuzzy-headed. Many people are coping by throwing themselves into something: helping out, or getting ther lives re-organised. I did that last time: went in to work and worked long hours; lots of good footage- had started working on a doco about the recovery at the university.
Well, that's a doco that won't make it. Shame, it could have been good. A good mate has been working on a beaut big doco about Chch on Sept 4- all premised on the remarkable fact that we had a 7.1 and no-one died.
He'll be gutted too; in a strange and twisted way, losing a really good story like that can feel a bit tragic itself, even knowing a story isn't a person and it only ever existed in our heads (though he'd done a lot of work on it)- it's still a loss.
This time is different for me: there's a slight sense of 'why bother'? It's not connected directly to any sense it will happen again- you can't think like that. It's just a 'here we go again'; been here; a deep ennui, eternal return, going through the same motions again- but this time also filled with a sense of being close to horror.
Everyone has a story. The check-out woman at the supermarket laughed when I said this. The woman ahead of me hugged her, and said she should get psychologist's wages. She- from Gujarat, where she experienced a 6.7 earthquake ten years ago, the day before her wedding was planned- had heard a constant stream of them, for three days.
I thought that would make a great film: the modern streaming and restlessness the backdrop to a supermaket-checkout version of canterbury tales.
Some friends today had double stories of terror. Her kids were at Discovery, above the bus exchange. It was over two hours before she found them- crawling in traffic, blocked by police, who told her to 'go home, and we'll dig them out'; then over a twisted broken foot-bridge, and into hagley park.
She found them there.
The kids were ok, but had to walk out through Cashel Mall, with dropping masonry, hanging wires, many upset people, (rumbling, and a little quake as I type) and crushed bodies.
Finally re-united; terrified, relieved, shocked.
Meanwhile her husband, who'd been painting his mum's house in the east of the city, was driving for 4 and a half hours, looking for somewhere to take his mum- with a broken leg in three places, recently unwell, and roads blocked, traffic jams, impassable bridges. Finally got to the the Bealey Ave clinic, and medics and the army took over and flew her to Timaru.
It's this sense of brushing up against horror- yet we were all fine. It was tedious, stuck in traffic, the twins listening to mp3 layers in the back seat, and fantastical too: the toppled fences, the amazing silt, the sudden bumps and buckles in the road, broken pipes gushing water. Then at one point, after we'd picked up O as well, and were jammed in traffic, I though someone had rammed into us. We all bounced around, two lines of stationary traffic, bouncing on rubber, the trees wobbling and rustling, the light-poles waving, in a big aftershock.
One of the two middle-aged women in the car opposite, windows down, but pointed the other way, swore dreadfully, comically, and we all laughed, smiled ruefully, shook our heads.
Straight after the initial shock (which showered me with books, dvds, while an 8mm projector landed nearby) I mostly felt irritation. I'd have to clean up the mess and was working on something and didn't want the interruption. I didn't think the mess would still be there, today, as I left it, the buildings still in lock-down; the green sticker clearing it in Sept still fluttering on the door, though I did take camera and laptop, and almost, but not quite, rushed off to record the chaos...
And here we are, but where exactly? Strange days indeed.


Substance McGravitas said...

Thanks for the story.

Mo said...

Crazy stuff, it would be hard to know how to react to such an event, I imagine.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

It's this sense of brushing up against horror- yet we were all fine.

I imagine that a lot of folks will be feeling "survivors' guilt" for a while.

I commend you for letting your friends "vent".

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Good point, BBBB. I read it and couldn't help but think of sitting at 22nd & Bway on 9/11, safe and sound.

Jennifer said...

Yes, thanks for the story.

rob said...

ah, you guys is sweet :)
Well, maybe not BBBB- he can be cool.