It has been a little over two years since an earthquake destroyed many parts of my home city. I hadn’t been back since it happened. Too much damage, too much destruction, too much pain. I was one of the lucky ones – I was able to make a choice about my involvement – and my choice was to watch and give money from afar.
A few weeks ago I finally returned. The Christchurch earthquake has long since fallen from the global headlines. There’s always a new war, a new dictator, a new catastrophe to report on. Out of sight, out of mind, and all that. When I spoke to them, most people outside New Zealand assumed that everything was back to normal in that little corner of the country.
It’s not. Roads are still buckled and broken. Entire suburbs lie dark and empty at night, condemned as too unsafe to ever live in and just waiting for the wrecking ball to descend. Several blocks of the inner city still remain cordoned off, the only way to access them via a bus tour that warns of the potential of injury or death before you get on board.
I used to regularly walk along the street where this photo was taken, browsing through the shop windows. It’s almost unrecognisable now, tangled piles of concrete and steel taking the place of storefronts and pedestrians.
The clean-up continues in Christchurch. It’s going to for a very long time.