I knew today was the anniversary of the nation’s third largest natural disaster in history. As an American living in Christchurch for less than a month, it is impossible not to learn more about this tragedy. First, the effects are still very present even 6 years later. Buildings are in ruins or in the rebuilding phase. Upon my first visit to the City Centre I was in awe viewing the fenced in church, half in ruins and grass growing all around the rubbish surrounding the scene. Art is everywhere, on old buildings and ones that were tarnished from the quake.
Today I went to the city as I heard on the radio there would be a memorial near Avon River which flows through downtown. I wasn’t aware of the memorial erected in remembrance of this day but became aware fairly quickly. I head sounds but wasn’t sure what for or where exactly. When I saw a single red rose floating downstream, I though, “Hey that must be Avon!” I soon saw many more to follow and arrived to the ceremony just as the opening song or prayer was ending. Wreaths were placed all along the memorial as family watched from chairs facing the memorial and first responders and helpers surrounded them. The public was able to view and hear from countless televisions and speakers.
As I walked with no destination, listening to the ceremony and solemnly people watching I was given a red rose. This touched me, and allowed me to take part in such a meaningful event of remembrance. A nice fellow smiled at me and handed it. I thanked him and continued on my way, holding onto the flower. Hundreds of flowers were being tossed into the river as people passed them out to anyone that would reach their hand out to grab it.
I found a spot that suited me best to watch. A bit downstream away from the hustle and bustle of foot traffic I stood behind a woman on a big cement block very close to the river. Soon two strangers joined her in that spot and silently took turns getting the nicest view of the bagpipes, prayers, and other performances to commemorate the 185 victims on the day of February 22, 2011.
A representative was in attendance from every country that had a fallen citizen and were introduced.
New Zealand 97 total
– Christchurch 87
– Waimakariri & Selwyn 8
– rest of NZ 2
South Korea 2
United States 1 each
5 people are still unidentified.
I said my prayers to the victims and their families, to the natural destruction caused by mother nature, and everyone in attendance or just in Christchurch at that time. I then carefully tossed the red rose into the stream to float along with the others.
This was a moving experience and gave me a deeper connection to Christchurch.
An earthquake occurred in Christchurch on 22 February 2011 at 12:51 p.m. local time and registered 6.3 on the Richter scale. The earthquake struck the Canterbury Region in New Zealand’s South Island and was centred 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) west of the port town of Lyttelton, and 10 kilometres (6 mi) south-east of the centre of Christchurch, at the time New Zealand’s second-most populous city.
Christchurch’s central city and eastern suburbs were badly affected, with damage to buildings and infrastructure already weakened by the magnitude 7.1 Canterbury earthquake of 4 September 2010 and its aftershocks.
Damage occurred to many older buildings, particularly those with unreinforced masonry and those built before stringent earthquakes codes were introduced. On 28 February 2011, the Prime Minister announced that there would be an inquiry into the collapse of buildings that had been signed off as safe after the previous earthquake on 4 September 2010, “to provide answers to people about why so many people lost their lives.”
Of the 3,000 buildings inspected within the four avenues of the central city by 3 March 2011, 45% had been given red or yellow stickers to restrict access because of the safety problems. Many heritage buildings were given red stickers after inspections. As of February 2015, there had been 1240 demolitions within the four avenues since the September 2010 earthquakes.
I walked around this city to remind myself of the damage, it’s hard to forget with constant construction every day of the week. Loud sounds and many workers add to the hustle and bustle of the already busy city.
It was then time to visit the 185 Empty White Chairs, a memorial for all of the victims of this day. It is placed diagonal from the Canterbury Television Building where the highest concentration of victims lost their lives.
There were many visitors and we stood in solidarity reading the poems, quotes and victims names on the board next to the chairs. Some of us signed the notebook with our prayers and wishes. I said a prayer and signed my name as U.S.A.
I then walked over to the empty space that once was the CTB Building. Flowers were placed in the center of the open space as well as a wall on the outskirt with letters and items of affection. A man was there while I was adding things to the wall himself. I wondered if he had family or friends who experienced the quake. I wondered if he was there at that time in 2011. I never asked him this but thought good things for him in my head as I returned to head home.
I wasn’t really sure what this day would hold for me but after research and reflection I’m happy I followed the sounds and the flowers. Solidarity and support were provided and after feeling a little homesick from America, I was unable to experience any loneliness while being in this space of remembrance.
May the 185 victims rest in peace and may the survivors find solace from this natural tragedy.