Today, in an effort to "normalize" life, I was not going to write about the Christchurch earthquake.
But life in New Zealand these days is the earthquake. It has infused everything and is ubiquitous. It was this country's 9/11, an event that changed the very consciousness of a country. Proportionately, four times as many people died in Christchurch on Feb. 22 as died September 11 in the U.S. Everybody, it seems, knew somebody in Christchurch; many know someone who died. The economic impact of the quake will be five to eight times as bad as the effect Hurricane Katrina had on the U.S. economy.
So, "getting back to normal" may be easier said than done. Yesterday, for the first time in nine days, there was some good news. The newspapers have deemed it "Miracle at the Cathedral." As the search and rescue teams - now in recovery mode - went through Christchurch Cathedral, where, according to reports, 22 people were buried, they found no bodies.
In a city overdosing on bad news, where the macabre has become common place, this was indeed a miracle. As perverse as that sounds. But that is the nature of this world turned upside down: that not finding bodies in a church is something to celebrate.
I know Amy, who was in Cathedral Square when the quake hit, is happy. Now she just needs to receive word about her Canadian friend, Angela. That will help a lot.
But the clouds of gloom soon returned, as the police raised the official death total to 166 and warned that it would probably rise northwards of 200. The miracle was only briefly touted, and no one but headline writers really cheered.
Another poignant moment came when the Christchruch Rugby team, the Canterbury Crusaders, took to the field in their new temporary home in Nelson. Their stadium, the one I was in when the earthquake hit, is unfit for use. Before the Rugby season had begun, the Crusaders had decided to dedicate this week's game to the 29 miners who died at Pike River. The Crusaders, now mourning for themselves, took to the field in the West Coast Rugby uniform that bore the names of each of the dead miners.
Tragedy upon tragedy.
The players said that they wanted to distract their fans back home from the awful grind that is the aftermath of an earthquake. Just for a little bit. With respect. The team looked like it was going to be thrashed. The first quarter of the game was sloppy. They played like what they must have been: distracted, broken hearted, painfully aware of the irrelevance of what is, even in New Zealand, only a game, after all. But then something clicked and the team came together, as Christchurch has, to complete a job. They won easily, giving their city and their region the win "they deserved."
Two bits of news to provide a little solace for Christchurch - however temporary