Saturday, February 26, 2011

Courage, cooperation & Christchurch

A busy day packing and cleaning lies ahead. We move next week. I find the prospect depressing. Writing a post is one way of avoiding it all!

One of my frustrations with the on-line media is the way stories vanish. This is not a criticism of the press, nor of the search engines. It's simply a reflection of the story volume. I see a story that I want to refer to, put the matter aside and then can't find it. I know I should book mark them, but my temporary bookmarks have become uncontrollable.

In this case, the story that vanished was the scale of the Australian relief effort in Christchurch - 320 police, 300 search and rescue specialists, a full field hospital. On the not-so-pleasant side, Australian looters and confidence tricksters pretending to be police or relief workers.

I have written a bit on this blog about the need for cooperation between countries in the face of natural disasters. Here there was a very good story in the Australian by Nicolas Perpitch, Global 'family' of rescuers ready at a moment's notice, that provides background on existing cooperative efforts.

105132-ctv-building It is hard to say anything positive in the face of such a disaster, one that affected so many people. You can see a Japanese perspective from Asahi Shimbun  here and here.

The photo montage from the Australian, I can't give a precise link, shows the Canterbury TV building before and after the quake. This was the building in which the Japanese students died and which is covered in the two Japanese reports linked above.  

One thing that does come through is the raw courage as well as the terror generated by the moment. There are many disasters that go only partially reported because the media isn't there. We shouldn't forget that when we look at the coverage. That said, when the media coverage is there, the stories come through.

There have been so many examples. Just two here.

In Reduced to rubble, scarred by grief, Andrew Holden describes not just the quake, but the efforts to keep the presses rolling.  

Everything we've collected so far has gone straight to the web, but a paper gives people solidity, a touch of normality amid chaos. We don't realise it then, but with power out to most of the city, few people can watch television, or read the internet when their batteries run out. Communications will become increasingly tough over the next two days. Even those with home phones that need power are out of touch when their mobile dies. The old media stalwarts - print and radio - are all they have.

wedding Emma Howard Chrs Greenslade The second story is on the front pages across much of Australia today. This coverage is drawn from the Sydney Morning Herald. 

The photo shows Emma Howard and Chris Greenslade on their wedding.

On the day of the quake, Emma was working in the PGC (Pyne Gould Corporation) building. When the quake struck, she was thrown from her chair and trapped in the rubble where she spent the next six and a half hours. There she texted her fiance, fellow accountant Chris Greenslade, who raced to the building from his nearby workplace.

"He just ran to me, expecting to find me standing on the street, ready to take me home," she said.

Mr Greenslade dug among the remains, pulling out other people as he searched for his bride-to-be. He was photographed carrying an injured woman to safety in one of the first images that emerged of rescue efforts after the quake.

The couple decided to proceed with their already planned wedding on the due date, a celebration of life and hope in the midst of disaster.

A second thing that the quake has done, and this is a local perspective, is to remind Australians of the importance of the NZ relationship. The response to the quake in this country was quite emotional. New Zealand is family.

Taiwanese rescurers The last photo is from The Press in Christchurch. It shows Taiwanese rescue workers.

People who work together to save others build bonds. Bonds with each other and bonds with those they help.

It's a simple thing, but one that is quite important. These bonds build and can have profound effects. It is hard to hate or even distrust someone when you have worked together in the midst of fear, dust, sweat.

Australian aid to Indonesia during the tsunami transformed the relationships between the two countries. A simple thing really and very Asian where the prevailing cultural ethos is more collective than in many western countries. If you are there for me when I need help, then I have an obligation to respond.

I am not overstating this. However, I do think it worth remembering.

In the meantime, and as the media coverage of the Christchurch earthquake begins to dim, spare a thought for those in Christchurch who have a long and hard grind in front of them.

In disaster, the first reaction is courage and cooperation in the midst of despair. Then comes tiredness and a sense of despair. It becomes harder to cope. After that, comes the long and slow process of rebuilding. This is when things really get hard.


rummuser said...

The New Zealand cricket team is here and the entire nation prayed for them and their fellow countrymen. I have very close friends in NZ and luckily one family from Christchurch was here holidaying.

Thumbs up for Emma Howard and Chris Greenslade on their wedding.

Jim Belshaw said...

A much appreciated comment Ramana.