Quake taught me to care for strangers

05:12, Feb 24 2014





















Al Park and Adam McGrath at Hearts Shall Anchor, a commemorative event in Lyttelton on Saturday. Photo: Greta Yeoman.

In Lyttelton on Saturday a group of musicians, poets and friends got together at the Lyttelton Coffee Company to commemorate the third anniversary of the 2011 earthquake with Hearts Shall Anchor.

There were bagpipes, songs, poems and tears.

Ann Brower played three songs on her fiddle - ''one for what we've lost, one for what we've found and one for what we have to look forward to".

Together everyone sang All You Need is Love.

Saturday marked three years since what my children call Mr Shakey paid our city a visit.

I was unprepared for how many emotions would rise to the surface - after all it's been three years.

It was during the one-minute silence to respect those who were lost that I felt undone.

Isn't it strange how one minute spent in silence can seem such a long time?

So much can happen in a minute.

Whether strangers or friends, that experience binds us together. We are all connected by it and we understand each other's loss and hurt.

Five days a week I walk through Cathedral Square. Five days a week I observe people who are returning for the first time to the city.

I can see it in their expressions, but I particularly see it in their eyes.

Last week an 80-year-old man stopped me with tears rolling down his face to tell me that he used to sing in the cathedral when he was a small boy.

He shared his happy memories of people and buildings, memories which are part of the fabric of his life but also our city's life.

Before we said goodbye we hugged.

Mr Shakey taught me to care for strangers.

In the days and weeks that followed the quakes, people rallied around and helped each other, communities focused on people more than material possessions. We need more of this.

Mr Shakey reminded us all to treasure those we love and enjoy the quiet moments which make up daily life.

Each day we all share together is precious.

We are all connected by our experience and Saturday offered a chance to remember and reflect on this.

For my children it was the first time they had been back to Lyttelton in three years. They ate ice-creams in the sun and laughingly chased each other up and down steps beside the market stalls.

Hearts Shall Anchor was about commemoration and respect for all we have lost but it was also a chance to make new positive memories, memories shared together in the spirit of understanding, compassion and love.

As we drove back through the tunnel, a small voice from the backseat said ''Goodbye Mr Shakey''.

It seemed apt.

The Press