9 Years After the 22 February 2011 Quake

For those of you not in the know, at 12:51 PM on 22 February 2011, a devastating earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand. It was a very unique earthquake in the fact that it not only proved some scientific theories but also broke records for peak ground acceleration for an earthquake of its magnitude and for movement both back and forth and up and down. Hurray, us.

Leading up to this anniversary, I usually feel anxious, and sometimes sad. This year, the time before the 9 year mark has been very difficult. My feelings are back, sometimes in full bloom, and I feel sad, and angry, and frustrated, and depressed, and anxious, all at the same time. But the further I get from that day, the more resigned I feel. The one thing I thought I could trust, the ground below my feet, betrayed me in new and amazing ways. My shoulders and back ache more often than not from the collision between my body and the doorframe in the middle of the quake itself, after being biffed across the room during the violent shaking. My mind numbs everything when it all becomes too much. My trust in many things borders on suspicious at the least and full-on broken in the extreme. Things to work on.

I’m alive. Or some semblance of it. And I am thankful, don’t get me wrong, but the whole experience is something everyone who went through it seems tired talking about, and everyone who didn’t go through it has no idea what we went through. A very difficult space to linger in.

I’ve heard from people in earthquake zones who have experienced moderate quakes say, “I’ve felt quakes and I understand what you went through.” I need to respectfully point out, no, you probably don’t understand. And it takes the violence, and the utter destruction, and the horror of the aftermath to fully appreciate what we went through.

Logan McMillan lived on the sixth floor of an apartment building downtown when the quake struck. He started filming in the immediate aftermath. This is his video. WARNING: It is contains footage which may be disturbing to some viewers.

A few days ago, our neighbors were having some work done on their house. I was anxious due to the anniversary coming up — and I’ve said it before, I feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop around this time of year, and the 14 February 2016 quake and the Port Hills Fire didn’t help my superstitious mind either — and the tradesmen, or the people who lived there, or someone kept slamming the side door, or letting it bang closed due to a pressure difference. I’d jump each time. This was before my last counselling session, too, so it put me from slightly anxious (my normal state) to highly anxious, which is never conducive in my counselling sessions, or in life in general.

Moreso, I’ve felt very blue and quite sad. It doesn’t seem to matter how many years have passed from that horrible day, but I still mourn. On Thursday, two days before the anniversary, it didn’t help that the weather was pretty similar to what it was on the day of the quake: cool, quite overcast with pendulous, rain-laden clouds, and drizzling on and off. It shackled my mood to the memories.

Last night, before I went to bed, I realized how thankful I was we had relatively little damage to our house, and that our home protected us throughout the entire ordeal. She stood strong, and continues to stand proud, and I am glad we picked such a good home when we decided to move nearly 15 years ago now. (We had looked at houses in areas which are no longer standing. I’m not sure how I would have handled that.)

Today, on the actual day, I feel resigned and sad. Part of me is weary of this day and how my life seems tethered to that moment, and another part of me feels it’s so far away now that it seems like a bad dream. But I still drive past the fallen Christ Church Cathedral on the way to work every day, Cathedral Square still a ghost of what it once was. There are cordoned-off buildings still peppered between empty sections and shiny, new buildings. Construction is still going on all over the place. It is a place in transition, like I am a person in transition. There is the haunting part — the ghosts of the past, lingering, unable to be swept away right now — and there is the present part, looking forward, glancing backward, moving away from that horrible day and lurching forward to the unknown.

That is the best way I can describe it.

Today, like most earthquake anniversaries, I will go out for a nice long walk and enjoy life. Admire the good things about nature and clear my head and let the emotions come as they may.

One thing I have learned from the moment: life is short. Tell others how you feel about them. Feel freely. Don’t be sorry for how you feel. Be honest and live in the moment. Be present. Encounter every moment for what it brings: the good, the bad, the ugly, the joyous.

Life is short. Be happy.