I had a wonderful and tragic day yesterday live blogging Christchurch memorial day for the NZ Herald online.
I would like to say a massive thanks again to Troy Rawhiti-Forbes, my buddy from NZPWI days, for hooking me up with the gig, Cathy O'Sullivan from the Herald for giving the green light on my shot, and Esther from the Herald online team for wrangling my updates.
I was nervous as all get out. I rewrote my intro three times throughout the week, depending on my emotional temperature. I was very cognizant of the Herald readership being very unforgiving, and I unconsciously started self-editing my opinion. But by the end of the week I'd come across some really nasty anti-Christchurch, unempathetic sentiment, and there are some nasty wee buggers round this country who needed a kick in the arse about our reality here. "Write like your mother isn't watching" my friend Sue Wells told me. Indeed.
ETA: I meant to say: The intro to the piece exaggerated things JUST slightly. My SO didn't swoop in to rescue me like a knight in shining armour and "drive me away from the crumbling inner city". He just happened to me only 4 blocks away and could get to be easily (well, as easy as broken roads would allow). We then sat in the carpark for three hours. I would have walked or driven home myself if I could. So no. No one "rescued" me, and you know I would scoff at the idea of needing "rescuing" by a male *grin*. Also, I know I look unhappy in the picture ("like sucking a lemon" one colleague put it), but hey, as I said in the blog, asking us to smile at this time is editing our response and telling us how we should feel. I sure as heck don't feel like smiling much at the moment.
It was quite a surreal day. Exhausted anyway from the sheer basics of living in this city for the last three weeks, I was climbing the walls early morning, imagining all sorts of scenarios: it wasn't going to be posted; commentary would be vicious; my internet or power would go down.
Thankfully all went to schedule in the end, and I wrote through the memorial service and up to about 3pm. By then I was absolutely exhausted - I'd had a bad night anyway (nerves and insomnia combination), and I was sagging in my chair, absolutely sweating. I know it sounds very dramatic for only having been writing, but the emotional content of the day was pretty traumatic. Having to as quickly as possible put into words my feelings was very difficult, but a challenge I'm glad to say I mostly stood up to. As much as I had some hard and harsh things I wanted to say, I wasn't going to put myself across as unempathetic, nasty or clueless as some opinion writers.
I know my privilege and "luck" showed through in my circumstances, and in that way I felt guilty that my words were important enough to put out there in the mainstream media. Though it needs to be said how much grief there is in Christchurch and how hard everyone is finding it, there are other voices that need to be heard more. I recommend looking at the "Voices of Christchurch" video blog on the Herald for a sampling of those. The people in the eastern suburbs - Aranui, New Brighton, Bexley, Burwood, Avonside, Dallington, Redcliffs, Sumner, Lyttleton - in some suburbs that may never rise again, need a lot of time, help and compassion.
I had made some notes about 1am the night before of things I wanted to mention, but in the blur of writing and editing on the fly, I missed a couple of things. I wanted to mention how much I would like Bob Parker's "It's Munted" t-shirt - I only just found this link, and the proceeds are going to Red Cross, though I can't speak to how official it is. I know there are a other great, more sympathetic fundraising t-shirts out there, if your gallows humour can't quite deal with talking about our munted city.
I also wanted to mention Women's Refuge Christchurch, and I'm so mad at myself that I forgot. Women's Refuge Christchurch Earthquake Response on Facebook has 300 likes. Bob Parker's Parka has 6,600+. I mean, come on people! Women's Refuge ChCh lost 4 of the 5 safe houses on Feb 22, and domestic violence incidences immediately spiked after the disaster. Please do not ignore the difficult parts of our communities during a time of crisis - I know it's not "fun" or light-hearted, but women at risk will be MORE at risk if they've lost their homes and/or jobs and have violent partners even more stressed out because of the earthquake. Donating goods to Women's Refuge Christchurch will take a bit of effort because you have to contact them for the safe drop off point, but please, if you can, make the effort. If not, you can always make a monetary donation through their website.
After riding high on a difficult day that went well, I absolutely crashed emotionally after dinner and a good glass of wine. I finally saw images of the Arts Centre. I wept my heart out. My beautiful city...