A short while ago I saw a man, sitting on his own in the corner of the room with a thousand yard stare. His tea cup was empty on the table, his eyes were wet with tears and his phone was clutched in his hand.
I’m sure there’s not a single person in the country who isn’t in Christchurch right now.
I was just about to head out to lunch when I felt my office shudder. It was a sickening feeling, the first time I’ve felt an earthquake from several stories up. My first thought was “Yay! Dunedin’s turn!” but it only took a few seconds for me to realise that (a) it was almost definitely coming from Christchurch, and (b) it was bad. Within a minute or so reports started pouring in on Twitter, and they were terrifying.
It’s 24 hours later. I spent most of that time trying to get through to people through text message, Facebook, Twitter and Email. Communications via Internet have been much more reliable than by phone. The phone systems were so congested that you couldn’t text someone from Dunedin to Dunedin, to say nothing of in Christchurch.
All of my friends who I’ve been able to make contact with are safe, some of them are homeless, and still some I have not been able to find. As I’m writing this the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Christchurch city center has slumped three meters in 10 minutes, and is likely to collapse entirely.
(2.49pm, I think I just felt another aftershock)
I’m trying to work out exactly what I can do that would be the most use. So far I’ve just been trying to co-ordinate and communicate with people, letting everyone know that people are safe when I find out they are. My friend Liam is on standby to go up and help with civil defense efforts (he works for DOC and is experienced dealing with forest fires and rescue work). He thinks I might be of some use up there for “strategy and tech problems”. I think, if I was sure I was able to help and not just be another useless liability, I would already be on my way up. My fear would be to go unprepared into a warzone, fuck something up, and just be another mouth that needs water and a place to sleep. That’s a decision I’ll have to make as I find out more about what I can do and what is needed.
In the meantime, I can help by offering anyone who wants to get the hell out of town a place to stay. If any of my friends want to stay for a few days in the most earthquake-safe city in the country, get in touch! I have a couch I can sleep on while you stay. We have power, running water, food and ground that stays, more or less, where it belongs.
Oh, one thing I’m sure you can do to help? Turn off the damned television. I admit I’ve been glued to the news websites and social media, but I can’t watch the TV coverage for more than a few minutes without it making me furious. Some of it has been good, but when they’re talking to survivors who made it out of collapsing buildings, why do you even ask a question like “how do you feel to know your workmates are still buried in there?”. Also, something about apologizing for the seventh time for the images you’re about to show, and then playing the same footage you’ve apologized for playing six times previously, starts to sound pretty fucking disingenuous.
So get the hell away from the TV. Do something else, anything else. Help, communicate, donate, work, hug someone, tell your parents you love them, anything but just sit like a zombie being fed by the screen.