Those not living this terrifying nightmare in Christchurch, watched glued to television screens as the nation's darkest day cruelly unfolded. To keep this in perspective, I don't have a special survival story. I did fly to Invercargill during the 24 hours post-quake however. The gut-wrenching state of a nation in grief, was clearly apparent in the eyes and on the faces of all.
Auckland Airport was a solemn place indeed. Usually bustling with laughter and chatter, a solo commentary feed from TV monitors reporting the latest Christchurch update, held the attention of most.Departing flights were mostly all delayed (some inevitably). It was announced over the loud speaker that Victim Support and Red Cross were at the ready and should be approached without hesitation. Arrivals from Christchurch began to flow. As did the tears. While hundreds of kilometres away from the epicentre, arms were outstretched and open in Auckland.
Christchurch terminal was silent. Silent in grief. Those at the departure gates seemed in shock. Those arriving home, were speechless. Those transferring onto other flights did so in silence. Planes were exited via stairs on the tarmac and the usual airbridge, in an attempt to speed up the inevitable turnaround.
To my disgust, one warped individual chirpily stopped random passengers to preach "it's good this earthquake, coz all the f***ing tourists go away " before blasting a tune on his harmonica and skipping off. How anyone takes pleasure in causing further grief to an already grieving terminal, I do not understand. I hope he feels better now. What a sad little man.
At Invercargill airport, the mood was different still. The community seemed close. The majority of those on the flight were returning to loved ones. They were greeted with tears and hugs that lasted for eternity it seems.
One passenger summed up today for me. You could see it in her face as it ruptured into misery. She literally fell into the arms of her elderly parents, wailing in utter silence.
12.51pm Tuesday, 22 February 2011, will be a moment in time etched in the minds of all New Zealanders. Our hearts are with all those effected. What an absolute tragedy.
Where in the World is Christchurch?
South Island, NZ
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