Christchurch. Now Christchurch.
Is there anywhere safe left in the world?
I spent the first three days of this month in Christchurch, so the news that has come through from New Zealand was more than a little shocking.
Shocking also, because like Australia, for a developed ‘first world’ country, New Zealand generally has impressively low crime rates. It’s a beautiful, peaceful, happy country.
So it makes the horrors of the actions of these twisted individuals all the more incomprehensible.
Various people I spoke to weren’t sure if my visiting Christchurch would be rewarding, that maybe I’d be better sticking to the incredible scenery of South Island:
“It’s like a ghost town.”
“Maybe give it a miss if you’re expecting excitement.”
“It’s still being rebuilt after the two earthquakes. There are shipping containers everywhere.”
The later is certainly true, but I found it a fascinating place, most certainly.
My stock response was along the lines of “I’m a journalist. It’s interesting for someone like me, to make sense of what’s happened.”
I’m not sure anyone sane can make sense of senseless murder and brutal, hate-filled massacres, but less than two weeks ago I encountered a brilliant resilience in the people and the vibe of Christchurch.
The images are from my first port of call in the city, the 185 Empty White Chairs Earthquake Memorial: a monument for every one of the victims who died in the second major earthquake in 2011. A simple expression of our shared loss. It’s moving, effective and incredibly poignant.
The emotions and feeling around the area was understandably heavy. You would see a baby’s car seat, a wheelchair and a rocking chair. Each depicting and representing someone who was lost in that tragic earthquake. There is a sign on the information board that you can sit in a chair and choose one or more that speaks to you.
In its starkness and sadness, a silent yet poignant reminder of the diversity of humanity and the frailty and impermanence of life – able to be gone in an instant and when you least expect it.
And of course, white is the colour of peace.
Will we ever have peace in our time? I wonder.
It’s kind of frightening.
Steve Pafford, your man in Havana