Christchurch first shook September 4, 2010 with a 7.1 magnitude earthquake and was followed with a 6.3 magnitude earthquake on February 22, 2011. While the second earthquake was smaller; the damage was larger. It didn’t stop there…smaller aftershocks were felt after both.
More of the Story
I’ve started this post on Christchurch several times. It’s hard to put into words how I felt while I was there. Christchurch is a city still struggling to recover from the earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. And yet, the city seems alive and vibrant.
Although I arrived in Christchurch with a group, I decided to walk around town by myself. I’m glad I made that decision because it allowed me to see what was important to me. One of the best experiences I found was Quake City, an interactive museum which told the story of the earthquakes. There were a lot of earthquake artifacts, but the most touching part were the videos of the residents who experienced the earthquakes first-hand. Some of those residents lost family members. There was no way to watch the videos without tearing up.
The largest loss of life during the earthquakes was at the Cantaberry Television Building (CTB) where 116 people died. Considering only 185 people died, CTB accounted for nearly 63% of the deaths. The controversy came shortly after the quake when it was found that the architect of CTB wasn’t licensed in New Zealand.
Steps to Recovering
Christchurch has come up with creative steps on the road to recover, mainly the Restart Mall and Cardboard Cathedral. Unfortunately I ran out of time to see the Cardboard Cathedral, but checkout Wikipedia for some interesting information (and, yes it’s made out of cardboard).
The Restart Mall is made out of shipping containers to house many of the retail locations that were destroyed at City Mall. I actually found the look of the shipping containers quite attractive. I’d be surprised if this doesn’t become a permanent solution.
Quake City Museum
Quake City had several pieces from the Cathedral. They plan on putting these pieces back on the Cathedral once it’s rebuilt.
There was also a lot of educational information displayed and handed out. They even had a heart wrenching video with first hand accounts.
- The February 2011 earthquake happened at 12:51pm. The court house was fairly empty since judges, lawyers, and jurors were out to lunch. One of the police officers on duty quickly realized he had to do something with the prisoners awaiting trial. He gathered them all together and headed out to find a judge. He found one along a local waterway. On scrap pieces of paper they came up with outcomes that allowed them to release the petty crime prisoners. There were two major crime prisoners left. The same police office ensured that they made it to an undamaged prison. When I was there the courthouse still was not reopened.
- A mother lead two of her small children through town to find her son who had been at school during the earthquake. It look her several hours and the entire time she was worried something bad had happened. The school was significantly damaged, but she found her 14 year old helping others in the area. He also told her, “mom, I really wanted to come find you…I was worried”.
These are just two examples. Other stories ended more tragically. I didn’t have time to watch the entire video, but I was moved to tears by what I did see.
While there is still a lot of rubble and empty lots in Christchurch, the overall sense is that of recovery and positiveness. There is no doubt this city is coming together and supporting each other. Eventually things will be rebuilt and the Christchurch will be stronger than ever.