The first day of our tour was devoted to most people arriving from overseas, and a welcome dinner. I had most of the day free and Hasselfreetours (that ran the Edoras tour) offered me 50% off their 3 hour double-decker bus tour of Christchurch, so I took them up on it.
Christchurch has experienced two major quakes in the last 2 years. The first one happened when everyone was asleep, so there were thankfully no casualties. The one from February 2011 happened around 1pm, and downtown Christchurch was severely hit. Nearly 200 people lost their lives that day. Christchurch is still recovering.
The first hour of the bus tour was open-air, driving around downtown Christchurch. It broke my heart to see the devastation the quake left behind that they are still, over a year later, struggling to deal with. Christchurch’s landmark Cathedral will likely have to come down. Many want to save it, along with the other stone buildings from the 1800s that seemed to suffer the worst of the quake; but there simply isn’t money to restore them.
I was a little melancholy as I returned to the hotel. I watched the heartbreak on the face of a woman from New Zealand who grew up in Christchurch and took the tour with me. It was the first time she had been back since the quake, and she brought her young daughter with her. She kept saying, “It will never be the same.” There is something poignant about recognizing a time in your life where everything pivots. Where the past has become irrevocably the past, and you are left with no choice but to face a new and different future. The stability that you may have counted on has been removed. The landmarks that you relied on for direction are gone. You must move forward. While many in Christchurch are ready to demolish, rebuild, and move on; there are still many struggling to let go of the past. They wish and want and hope for things to go back to the way they were before the quake; but no one is willing to pay the price for the restoration. I wonder if I return in 10 years, what will the resolution have been? Will the forward-thinkers win, decisions made solely on ease and expense? Or will those who seek restoration find their voice; or more importantly, find someone who can make that restoration happen?