Canterbury Quake Anniversary -The Guilty Remnant

September 10, 2012

“What if-woosh, right now, with no explanation-a number of us simply vanished? Would we think it was the Rapture? Would some of us collapse? Would others of us go on, one foot in front of the other, as we did before the world turned upside down.” Tom Perrotta “The Leftovers”.

This was the challenge faced by the bewildered citizens of Mapleton, a stereotypical fictitious US small town, in the aftermath of an event known as the Sudden Departure, in which hundreds of ordinary citizens suddenly departed in the middle of living their ordinary lives.

Some of the dearly departed were more sinners than saints, to the chagrin of some professional clergy whose response was less than rapturous when they themselves didn’t make the celestial cut and had to stay behind to minister to the undeparted.

Kevin Garvey, Mapleton’s new mayor, a former businessman with a new community vocation born of the crisis, tries to bring a sense of renewed hope and purpose to the shattered community. But nothing is the same as before the Sudden Departure -not marriages, not relationships, not friendships.

It’s two years last week since the first big seismic event, the 7.1 Greendale quake on 4 September 2010, changed our Cantabrian landscape and our world.

In the phony seismic war before the deadly 22 February 2011 quake, we were rather nonchalant about the risk from on-going quakes. The City of Christchurch hosted the Paralympics a month earlier in late January 2011.  The sporting festival opened with a parade of athletes, many in wheel chairs, through a central city which had been shaken by the Boxing Day CBD quake just as the post-Christmas sales bonanza was about to kick off. A month later the cathedral spire toppled on the site of the VIP’s marquee which had seated the Prime Minister and other national and international notables at the opening ceremony.

Since September 2010 we’ve had 11,965 quakes*, 100 over 4.72 .magnitude* and 14 over 5.5.  The frequency is reducing: there have only been 18 quakes over the last 7 days, and the Richter scale severity is also decaying , though with the occasional spike to keep us on our toes.

One cult spawned by the Sudden Departure in Mapleton was called the Guilty Remnant, whose members took a vow of silence as they struggled to come to terms with the selective cataclysm and make atonement.

Though the central city building  which housed our offices has been demolished, on the home front my family is in the guilty minority of those in Christchurch whose houses are now spick and span in the wake of the quakes, touch wood (rough hewn rimu-strong and flexible).  Just before the September earthquake anniversary thunderstorm hit Christchurch last Wednesday, accompanied by dazzling meterological pyrotechnics, the multinational team of repairers and decorators that had been working for six weeks on our house  finished their work.

Until then most of our possessions had been stored in a container swung in precisely by the Peter Fletchers Transport driver over the fence onto the side lawn. We’ve been camping at home with my wife acting as clerk of works and tea lady. The workers left a card thanking her for the latter if not the former.

Now the grandfather clock, which came crashing down in the first quake, is restored to pride of place at the front entrance and the cuckoo clock is back on the wall upstairs, no longer mute.

In the scale of things our damage was pretty minor, with no land problems because of the lava spur our house sits on at Kennedys Bush 12 kilometres south west of the city centre. We certainly didn’t have high priority needs like many people in east Christchurch and those at the other end of the Port Hills to us.

Apart from the more than 20,000  red zoned  and vacant houses in the process of being demolished, 27,000 people live in the TC3 category zone requiring detailed land inspection by drilling and, in many cases, new foundations. 400 people still live in badly damaged houses, some families squatting in a single room.

With no obvious land damage or structural house damage the make good and makeover at our place  was very straightforward and because the damage being well under the EQC $100,000 cap our insurance company wasn’t involved.

One or two small things still to sort out but the repairs and renovations, including some extras on our own account, have gone very well and we are very lucky. Given the problems faced by some people it would be unseemly to offer rapturous applause but here’s a quiet nod of approval to EQC, Fletchers Rebuild, Renovation Specialists and the subbies.

The stubbies are in the fridge awaiting the final sign off. We’ll invite the workers over to clean them up.  There won’t be any Mapleton leftovers.

*Blinks The two year seismic scorecard.

#Lyall Lukey
10 September 2012 My other less serious blog