have you ever been somewhere that had such a deep emotional effect on you that it was hard to write about? for me, this was Christchurch.
when we first drove into town from the airport, I was annoyed with the construction that seemed to be everywhere. with all the detours and lane closures our GPS couldn't keep up. by the time we would be re-routed we had found ourselves making another unplanned turn.
maybe I was still jetlagged. but as we started passing buildings that had been completely decimated, I realized that this wasn't just construction. it was reconstruction.
Christchurch was still recovering from a 2010 earthquake when in February 2011 the city was ravaged by one of New Zealand's worst quakes on record. the damage to many already weakened structures was devastating, as were the nearly 200 casualties.
the collapse of just one building accounted for 115 of the 180 total deaths. the resulting inspection of buildings city-wide deemed many structures unsafe, including a large number of historical buildings and churches. some were demolished, some are still in the process of being reinforced and repaired, while many have been left to sit vacant. over 10,000 homes in the suburban area were determined to be unsafe. the cost of making the necessary updates forced many property owners to sell and leave the city behind.
I had never seen this level of devastation in person before. it was heart-wrenching. collapsed theaters. historic buildings, crumbling and defaced with grafitti. entire city blocks barricaded from access because the ground is unstable. brick storefronts propped up by metal bars in hopes of preservation - even when only a single wall of the building remained.
but for every gut punch that the destruction delivered, there was a moment of hope.
an entire village of shops and cafes, brightly colored and built from green materials. artists painting murals to brighten up abandoned neighborhoods. vacant lots being turned into community gardens. the Cardboard Cathedral, built for one of the congregations whose church was destroyed. some of the best restaurants I've ever eaten in. the botanical gardens which still continue to bloom. beautiful buildings which had been preserved and restored.
Christchurch was still damaged, but they were rebuilding.
and the city I could see emerging from the literal rubble around me was strong, beautiful, artistic - and above all - resilient.
have you ever been to a city after it experienced a massive disaster? how did it affect you?