Today I travelled home on the bus to visit my brother for his birthday tomorrow. Sitting behind me were a couple from New Zealand who had flown out of Christchurch this morning, and had arrived in Melbourne just a few hours earlier. They were chatting to one and other and they seemed to be enjoying themselves.
About ten minutes into our journey, the woman’s phone buzzed with a text message. I heard her fumbling in her handbag for her phone and then clicking through to answer the message. What came next was a sharp intake of breath, as she flicked through the message from her friend which read “We just heard about the earthquake, are you alright?”” The woman and her husband were puzzled, and she soon got another message which confirmed “Massive earthquake in Christchurch, many people dead”.
The couple were clearly shocked and the woman leapt into action, attemtping to call all of her friends and neighbours to make sure that they were alright. She became increasingly worried as she recieved more details from the friends that she was able to get in touch with. More concerning was the fact that the telephone lines were down, so there were several of her friends that she couldn’t contact, and were therefore unaccounted for. The airports have been closed except for emergency flights, so the couple have no choice but to stay in Australia until the airlines start running flights again.
It was just awful how quickly these two people went from happy, cheerful holiday-goers to concerned, anxious and frantic. Many of their friends have lost their houses, and it doesn’t look good for their own flat, as their entire street has sustained massive damage. I sat there, overhearing everything that was going on as various people on the bus came over to comfort the two people and find out what was going on. I hope that they are able to contact all of their loved ones and that their home isn’t too badly damaged. Normally, when there is some kind of natural disaster, I feel sad and helpless, but oddly detatched from the tragedy. Today, just sitting in front of two people who were directly affected by this disaster humanised the problem. I was able to empathise with what they were going through. I can’t even begin to imagine how distressing this has been for them, and indeed for all the people who have been affected by this event. My thoughts and prayers are with them.