Words cannot express how I felt when I saw the devastation of Canterbury Cathedral after the February 22nd 2011 earthquake. Part of me felt like my life had changed forever.
Life in Christchurch can be categorised into two sections – BQ = Before Quake and AQ = After Quake. So much has changed in the last 6 & half years since the initial quake hit Canterbury on 4th September 2010.
The way I see things now is different.
My dad’s death taught me that grief is real and it is individual. Some people wear their heart on their sleeves and others like to keep things a bit more private.
The Christchurch quakes taught me to take nothing for granted because tomorrow it might be gone. And that you can grief for more than just people and animals.
The Christchurch Cathedral was (and still is, despite what some might thing) a symbol of my hometown. It has stood in the middle of city since 1864, when construction first started. It is where you would meet your friends when you came into the city.
“I’ll meet you in front of the Cathedral”
Everyone knew where it to meet – on the steps outside the Cathedral in Cathedral Square.
As a school kid there were two places we would go – the Canterbury Museum (which thankfully survived any major damage) and the Christchurch Cathedral. You would pay 50c to be able to climb to the top of the tower – around the winding stone staircase to get to the top for a view over the city. When I was a kid, it was the tallest building in Christchurch.
When the February 2011 earthquake happened, I know exactly where I was.
I was in Brisbane. I had a training session at work and we had a break for morning tea. The rest of my team had gone out for some cupcakes but for some reason I came back to my desk and checked Facebook.
This was one of the first posts on my newsfeed. My stomach dropped.
The first thing I did when I saw that post was jump on the local Christchurch paper’s site – The Press. That’s when I saw it.
That was when I saw the image of the Christchurch Cathedral broken.
That’s when I went into shock. And then rang my mum – who I actually got through to before the phone lines when down.
That’s when those memories of my childhood came rushing back.
That’s when I knew Christchurch would never be the same again.
Yes, they are rebuilding in the city. Which is great. But what about those suburbs where there use to be the sounds of the neighbourhood. Kids playing, dad’s mowing the lawns, the smells of mum’s cooking. Those things are now gone for a lot of people.
The street I grew up on is no longer a place that I recognise.
There has been financial, physical, emotional and mental strain. My friend knew a lot of people who died in the CTV building collapse. My brother is still fighting with the insurance company over what to do with their damaged house. People have moved to other parts of the city, the country, even the world because of the quakes.
Christchurch is still there. It is still my home but it has changed.
There is one last memory of the Christchurch Cathedral that I want to share. Not long after I moved to Australia, I went home for a visit. We were still living in the family home on Avonside Drive and my dad was alive.
It was around ANZAC Day and I had never actually been to a parade before (I haven’t been to one since, but for certain reasons for which I won’t go into right now). My dad served in the NZ Navy and my eldest brother had followed in his footsteps.
For this particular ANZAC Day, my brother would actually being giving an address within the Christchurch Cathedral so I decided to head into Cathedral Square with my dad and my brother’s eldest daughter for my first ANZAC Day parade.
ANZAC Day parades start early – really early. Plus they are on the 25th April, which is the middle of autumn so it is dark and cold at that hour of the morning. But they draw a huge crowd. There are a few speeches and laying of wreaths at Citizen’s War Memorial. After this, we headed inside the Cathedral to our allocated seats and sat down to listen to my brother address a full church.
My memories of the Christchurch Cathedral are quite vast. Even now with it lying in its ruined state, the Cathedral is still a drawn card – case in point, this amazing photo that I saw on Instagram the other day.
What is going to happen to the Christchurch Cathedral is still up in the air – and a hotly contested debate.
What would I like to see happen?
Well if we were back in 2011 my answer would be simple – rebuild it. Now however, reflection and hindsight being what they are, I think we should make an inviting ruin out of the bones of the building. This has been done to a lot of churches in London that were damaged in WW2. They are now places in the middle of the city where people can go and escape the craziness around them.
A place to reflect and enjoy.
Who know’s whats really going to happen with the building but for me, it will always be a part of the city I grew up in.
It will always be a part of me.