Christchurch quake: Could I have done more?
I wandered around Richmond Mall this morning as people sat at tables drinking their coffee, laughing and carefree. I felt out of place; the normalcy of things up here in Nelson in contrast with the chaos of Christchurch is disturbing.
It’s been five days since the quake and for those who only experienced it by TV it’s fast becoming history yet for those who were caught up in the midst of it such as myself the quake still dominates our lives both physically and psychologically.
I am grateful that I wasn’t killed or injured by the 6.3 quake that hit Canterbury on 22 February and I’m certainly faring better than many others who have lost family and friends, limbs, their homes and jobs. There will be people who are haunted for the rest of their lives by the quake, who will jump every time a truck rolls by or who see bricks hurtling towards them whenever they close their eyes or whose lives are now empty having lost loved ones.
I reflect on my actions following the quake and think about how I could have done more to help those trapped under the rubble. I wonder if there might be people who would have lived if I had stayed behind in the city to help.
I don’t feel ashamed about what I did or didn’t do. Yes people needed help but there were specific people who needed my help and it was to their aid that I ran. After first checking that my partner Jenny was alive and safe by SMS I then ran down Cashel and Madras streets to the LeftClick office building to check that my colleagues were safe. I have no doubt that had they not all managed to evacuate the building that I would have gone in to help get them out. Luckily the building whilst seriously damaged had stayed standing and everyone was huddled on the sidewalk across the street.
Whilst running to be with my partner across town in Merivale I passed the unrecognisable pile of rubble that was the CTV building. A few people were crawling over the wreckage trying to find survivors. I paused for a moment, considering helping out but once again I knew that while any survivors needed people my partner Jenny needed me personally and so I continued to run until my shaking legs ached and my throat was parched by concrete dust and then walked the rest of the 4km in a wide circle around the CBD to our apartment on Carlton Mill Road.
I also am not ashamed to admit that I wanted to save my own life. I am not ready to die and even once the initial quake had finished the city was far from safe. Buildings became death traps and skyscrapers became weapons, threatening to wipe out entire city blocks. I did not feel at all safe until I was on Bealey Avenue away from all buildings.
But in my many moments of pondering the events of Tuesday I still think about what I could have done differently and whether my actions were cowardly, especially in light of the TV footage and stories of those who selflessly dove into the rubble within seconds of the quake to haul people out.
I don’t expect anyone to condemn or reassure me although I am confident you will want to and for those whom will respond with the latter I certainly appreciate it. You weren’t there, you can’t put yourselves in my shoes. You can’t emulate the overwhelming sense of terror and the undeniable knowledge of impending death as buildings topple and shatter. This is just something I have to deal with and to come to terms with. If I went through it again would I do things differently now that I’ve had a chance to reflect?
Read my full account of the quake in my previous blog post. Also, we found out a week after the quake that our apartment building has been given a red sticker, meaning it has been deemed unsafe to enter.