"So long as there is still a Cantabrian standing you can't take Christchurch away – the buildings may be gone but the spirit of the people remains."
Phil Keoghan, loyal son of Canterbury, was feeling the pain of Christchurch yesterday as he walked through its streets. But he also knows his hometown is not going to let this killer quake beat it.
He is in the city to film a personal reaction to the quake which will screen tomorrow on the prime time news bulletins of US network CBS, the channel which screens his hit show The Amazing Race.
The quake is raw and personal for Keoghan. He attended St Andrew's College and mum and dad John and Beth run a bed and breakfast in Rolleston. Last night they slept on the floor of their garage, not because of damage to their place but because they have given up their bed to other homeless Cantabrians.
Seeing the devastation first-hand brought disbelief.
"It's almost like it's not real. I was here eight months ago filming for Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism. You think these buildings which you know so well, which have stood for 100 years or more, will stand forever. And here they are lying in ruins.
"It's like something out of a movie, but it's real.
"We get so desensitised by disasters in movies, but when you see this well, it hits you.
"You realise everything we build on the earth is temporary and ultimately the most important part of a place is the people.
"You are never going to take the fight out of a Cantabrian – but people here are really scared. This is brutal."
He got inside the cordons in the CBD, ushered in by Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism because of the audience his name commands in the US market.
Alongside the CBS news piece, he is filming appeals which will screen throughout the US asking for donations to the New Zealand Red Cross.
But the vital thing is to get an accurate message to Americans, he says. The US thinks all of New Zealand is a flattened disaster zone.
"The worst thing that can happen is that people stop visiting. No matter what fundraising people do, it's a drop in the bucket compared to tourism."
- © Fairfax NZ News