We cope...because we have no choice

Monday 6 September 2010, 6:00PM
By Robyn M Speed


Many of us have wondered how other’s cope in an emergency situation. We wonder, whilst being secretly very glad that it is not us.

But now, for Christchurch people—and visitors to the city—it is us.

In the space of less than a minute, our lives changed. We became the people in the middle of a massive earthquake. We became the people without power, or water, on a freezing morning.

The miracle is that we all survived, and the damage to our homes was nowhere near as bad as it could have been.

And now we can truly answer that question: how do people cope? They cope because they have no choice.

We have coped because there is no alternative.

We waited for the power to come back on. We were patient, because we had no choice but to be patient.

We are waiting for the water pipes and sewer lines to all be fixed so that we can have clean drinking water again. Until then we are boiling our water. We do what we have to do, because there is no other choice.

Buildings are damaged, and repairs are going to take time. We must be patient.

In the space of that terrifying minute, we all learnt what is important, and it is people. I did not run for my laptop or my car. My children did not run for their MacBooks and Ipods. My husband did not run for his blackberry. All that was important was each other. Our very lives were the only things of value.

And so, we stood together in the kitchen, with the candles lit, and we were just ‘with’ each other. It was so hard to believe what we had just been through. After shocks kept coming, and each time our heart quickened, and we wondered if a bigger one could possibly hit?

People are patient in a disaster, because they know that all that matters is life. And so long as we do not lose sight of that fact, we will continue to be patient, and to do what needs to be done.

When we forget…that is when we will be in trouble.