What do you do when you only have words and words seem inadequate?
If they come from the heart it’s not only words, it’s compassion, comfort and encouragement.
Prime Minister John Key has just held a media conference at which he said:
New Zealanders have woken to a tragedy unfolding in the great city of Christchurch.
The earthquake that struck the Canterbury region at ten to one yesterday has wreaked death and destruction on a dreadful scale.
There is no reason that can make sense of this event.
No words that can spare our pain.
We are witnessing the havoc caused by a violent and ruthless act of nature.
Many people have lost their lives. Families have lost their cherished loved ones. Mates have lost their mates.
These deaths are the greatest loss.
They remind us that buildings are just buildings, roads just roads, but our people are irreplaceable.
Today all New Zealanders grieve for you Christchurch.
To all those who woke up in Christchurch today feeling lucky to be alive, we know that you too are shocked, unnerved and grieving.
We know that your loss is sharpened by fear.
Our minds go to the mothers and fathers comforting children struck by anxiety and disbelief.
They go to the elderly, infirm and isolated who experienced this event alone and who remain blunted by shock.
And they go to each and every Cantabrian who has stoically endured six months of aftershocks, only to be hit by the biggest shock of all.
On behalf of New Zealand let me say to all of you: We feel your pain, as only a small nation can, for none of us feel removed from this event.
I am a proud son of Christchurch. I was raised there, I got my first job there, my sister lives there, my mother died there, I know what a wonderful place it is.
But my connection to Christchurch is no rare thing.
All New Zealanders have a piece of our heart in Christchurch.
All of our lives are touched by this event.
A friend or family member who lives there. A time spent studying there or a memorable experience had there.
We feel connected to your suffering. Your tragedy is our tragedy.
Today I want Christchurch to hear this message:
You will get through this.
This proud country is right behind you and we are backing you with all our might.
The world is with us.
Our Australian neighbours, our British and American friends, the great countries of this world, all are putting their shoulder to your wheel. They are sending their support, their expertise, their people to help us.
Christchurch, today is the day your great comeback begins.
Though your buildings are broken, your streets awash, and your hearts are aching, your great spirit will overcome.
While nature has taken much from you, it can not take your survivor’s spirit.
This devastating event marks the beginning of a long journey for your city.
It will be a journey that leads us from ruins and despair to hope and new opportunities. From great hardship will come great strength.
It will be a difficult journey, but progress is certain, things will get better, Christchurch will rise again.
On behalf of the Government, let me be clear that no one will be left to walk this journey alone.
New Zealand will walk this journey with you. We will be there every step of the way.
Christchurch; this is not your test, this is New Zealand’s test.
I promise we will meet this test.
Today and tomorrow our focus must be on preserving lives, on rescuing those who are trapped and treating those who are injured.
We pay tribute to the hundreds of search and rescue workers, emergency personnel, medical professionals and each and every person who is contributing to this effort.
You are heroes amongst us.
Already the bravery and resilience of Canterbury is on show.
In the weeks ahead our journey will take us to new obstacles, new challenges.
We have a city to rebuild. We have peoples’ livelihoods to restore. We have a community’s confidence to inspire.
We will rise to these challenges.
We will rebuild this city resolutely, and with the conviction that this is what it is to be a Cantabrian, what it is to be a New Zealander.
We are a country of pioneers. Whether we came by waka, sailboat, or aeroplane, we came with the conviction that we could build a new life in this country.
That great pioneering spirit will come to the fore in Christchurch over the coming months and years.
Though lost lives will never be replaced, and though your city will never look the same again, you will rebuild your city, you will rebuild your lives, you will overcome.
We have seen many cities in the world come back from disasters on this scale, and Christchurch will be no exception.
I know that all New Zealanders stand ready to help.
Right now, we can help by rallying around those who are grieving, supporting those whose livelihoods are in peril.
My message to all Kiwis who want to help is – act on that desire.
No act of kindness is too small.
Right now, you can help by offering support to friends and family who are hurting. Offer them a bed or a roof over their head if that is what they need. Make your donations to help those who have been hit hardest.
As infrastructure recovers, your visits to Christchurch will be welcome.
Above all, throughout this journey, offer those affected your love. Know that your humanity is more powerful than any act of nature.
As we look to the future, New Zealanders should know that the Government is going to do everything we can to support the recovery and rebuilding of Christchurch.
We are a resilient nation, and we will not bow down to this challenge. . .
Words too can express what we are feeling and help make sense of the senseless. Poet Mary McCallum writes:
After the last earthquake in Christchurch, I posted a poem trying to haul together what had happened there, and express what I’d seen and read at my safe distance in Wellington. I post it again today – the earthquake in Christchurch yesterday has devastated that city and its people. It was far worse in effect than the one last September, but the stuff of this poem does, I think, hold true, especially the opening lines — and not just for the people of Christchurch but for all of us in NZ at the moment … ‘it mobs us/leaves us/immobile//we are aghast…’
You can read Earth here.