Inspiring tales of endurance during quakes
14 June 2012
The remarkable stories of ordinary people, their actions and experiences living through the earthquakes that devastated their city, are explored in Canterbury University Press’s latest book The Quake Year. The book is based on interviews conducted by Fiona Farrell and is illustrated with striking photographs taken by Juliet Nicholas.
In The Quake Year, Christchurch residents record their experiences of living through a year of upheaval since they were brutally awoken at 4.35am on Saturday, 4 September 2010. The 19 deeply personal stories are revealing, moving, sad, sometimes unexpectedly funny and always extraordinary.
“It is different to the books of photographs recording the destruction of the city’s physical fabric, focusing instead on people’s ordinary everyday lives,” says Fiona.
“It has a different timeframe, being about the lives people lived before the quake and after: about the changes, some small but nevertheless deeply felt, to lives over the year that followed 4 September, 2010.”
Among the stories told are the intimate thoughts of a mother rushing to collect her toddler from pre-school, a nurse calmly working on quake injured in an operating theatre at Christchurch Hospital, of baker Jaimini Shurety, who held his dying colleague in his arms in Cashel Street.
The harsh realities people faced and their optimistic practicality following these life-changing events are told with frank honesty, from one family who returned to live in their red-stickered home after staying in multiple other forms of accommodation, and a cheesemonger who temporarily relocated his family business to a garage in order to continue earning a living.
“I was moved by the stories of friends and acquaintances, about their experiences during the quakes and the changes to their lives in the months that followed,” Fiona says.
“Obviously this is only a small sample for everyone in the city has their personal account. But these accounts, highly individual though they are, reflect a common experience. They are a way of honouring the courage of the people in this city.”
The Quake Year expresses with candour the sadness, loss, hope and courage Cantabrians showed everyday but also their inspiring determination to carry on and resume some form of normal life in the most unusual and extraordinary of circumstances.
“It was interesting what people in the check-out line were buying: it was all comfort food. The man in front of me had eggs, bacon, cigarettes, beer: and here we were buying pink buns. No one was buying sensible emergency rations like baked beans,” says interviewee Helen Webby.
Fiona Farrell was recently recognised for her services to literature by being named an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen’s Birthday and Diamond Jubilee Honours for 2012.
The Quake Year will be launched on Sunday 17 June, 3-5pm at Bentleys, UCSA Events Centre, 90 Ilam Road, Canterbury University.