Saturday, April 2, 2011

New Zealand

Several weeks ago I got a new student. She was from New Zealand. Her family was from Christchurch and they moved here after the earthquake because they didn't have power, water, or other things. They also started offering cheap flights to leave, so they came to visit family here in TX for a little while.
Here she is with her dad the day they left. I thought I'd post their story as written by her dad in an email to me.
Isabelle and I were both in downtown Christchurch at her school when the earthquake hit. The feeling was one of utter helplessness as I watched children, furniture, and my own body just hurled about the room as though a giant had picked up our school and shaken it like a baby's rattle. But as bad as the quake itself was, the aftermath was in some ways worse. We had to evacuate the children immediately out of the building and into the streets of Christchurch with basically no preparation or warning. Many of the children had no shoes on, most had only shorts and t-shirts and we had to walk for miles through the destroyed landscape of our once beautiful city past the rubble of collapsed cathedrals and 18th century buildings and the shattered plate glass of still standing but smashed modern structures. By the time we reached Hagley Park (a bit like New York's Central Park), the weather was turning overcast and cool and chaos reigned supreme - with little sign of any kind of organized effort to shelter or transport our children out of the city center. As the afternoon turned darker and cooler our teacher advised that those of us that thought we could get out should get out while it was still daylight. So Isa and myself and another 5 year old boy Jarrod (who I had taken in with our carpool that day) started walking out. We walked past 6 inch wide, meter deep cracks in the earth along the banks of the Avon river, trying to find an undamaged bridge over the swollen silt filled water. At one point a particularly strong aftershock hit which just knocked the streams of walking refugees flat onto the ground. We decided to try first for my workplace to see if anyone there could help us. When we arrived at the 3 story glass and steel office building we saw a small crowd milling outside who told us the building had been evacuated (with no serious injuries, fortunately) and I looked up to see the smashed glass of my own office window I used to look out and the apparent destruction within. At this point I really realized the gravity of the situation and the very heavy responsibility of making sure Jarrod was safely returned to his Mother and hoped that I had made the right decision in choosing to leave the group assembled in the park. Knowing that Isa and Jarrod could not walk much farther I flagged down a random car and asked for help - the woman let us in and told us she was going to Southshore which - as one of the amazing blessings and miracles of the day - is where we live. We then spent the next 7 hours and 3/4 tank of fuel to travel a distance of only 15 km - through gridlock, detours, flooded roads, even cars sticking up vertically from the road where they had fallen into sinkholes, to eventually arrive home safe to our (another blessing) lightly damaged house. Unfortunately, although safe, we had no water, power, or sewer services and the interior of our house was a big mess - particularly Isa's bedroom. Interestingly, she had not cried or acted scared the entire day, but she saw her own home and bedroom in such shambles she broke down and told me she was frightened.

There is of course more to the story of how one week later we eventually made it to Humble, but I just wanted to share a bit about what Isa and I have been through so you might understand how grateful we are to be here at Isa's grandparents house and at your lovely school. Perhaps this will also help you to understand why I need to be near Isa and she needs to know that I am close and that her world is 100% safe right now.


Jana said...

What an amazing story. Thank you Alona for sharing.

Valerie said...

Wow. Having first hand experiences like this is so different than hearing it on the news!

Amanda said...

So heart-touching. I'm also thankful that you posted this. Makes you put life into perspective of what's really important.