Then and Now...
A short story about the statue of a man called Godley who founded the city of Christchurch.
Shares the journey Godley goes on when a devestating earthquake destroys his city.
This is my city. My home I survey from my plinth of stone. I stand high inCathedral Square;Christchurchmy garden city. I am Godley. The founding father who lived and ordered in the early days. Central in the square, I watch over my cathedral, my city, my people. It is Friday night and my eyes search the bustling square where dozens of city folk unwind. I glance up at my Cathedral and see its green spire extending upward into the cloudless blue sky, a visible symbol of hope, my message of a foundation of faith in my city. My eyes roam across the grey paving to the far side of the square and I imagine my senses are filled with the distinct smell of sausages tinged with a slight stench of alcohol and tobacco combined with urine and vomit. I am still as tomato soup splatters to the ground. Traffic onColombo Streetcan be heard from my place in the square and red buses expel fumes as they drive by. I watch as the rattle of trams attract tourists, and from deep within me I long to laugh with the young people throwing balls and flying kites and paper darts.
I have been set in rock more than a century, yet I have still been moved by others, not only physically on numerous occasions, but also emotionally. My heart for this city was once alive: and with it were great desires. In 1847 when this city was founded, I longed to see this town grow and expand; I envisioned a place where people would gather together. I never considered the thought of this huge variety of tall and odd shaped buildings which are scattered throughout the city. I look up at the strangely shaped Hotel Grand Chancellor, and chuckle silently to myself. I have come to appreciate the uneven skyline of buildings as they have been built over the years however, and still I consider it my home.
As the sun begins to drop, rays of light reflect off the gigantic walls of glass in all directions creating a kaleidoscope exhibit. Over my right shoulder, groups flow in and out the ‘Yellow Rocket’ and the sweet aroma of coffee matches the late summer evening. My winged friends, the pigeons, glide through the sky above and some rest on my shoulders. They chatter loudly amongst themselves, carefree and happy in my beautiful city.
I look down at the crumbled body around me. My feet torn from beneath me, and there on the pavement they remain. It signals the destruction that has permeated the life of my city. Out of the corner of my damaged eye, I spot my cathedral. Tears form in my lifeless stone eyes as I stare at the pile of rubble dividing the historic building. The tall green spire now collapsed through the roof. Sobs grip my concrete chest, yet my closed mouth allows no emotion to escape. My friend. My ally. Our history. Interwoven. Together we have watched over our city. Time has come and gone. Citizens and leaders have come and gone. We have remained unchanged, unbroken and perfect stone. Until now- a time which has ended our days.
Only a week ago, I watched the previously flat paving around me being ripped up in a rage of Poseidon, the Earth-shaker. I watched many of the buildings that create central Christchurch being torn from their foundations; I saw pillars give way and roofs cave in. The mighty vandal, Poseidon, destroyed much of our city beyond repair. He rocked our world to its core, and then disappeared into an eerie silence, reappearing only to scare us with frequent jolting reminders of his power. Seven days ago, the professional bustling that fabricated this city surrendered itself to the chaos of this national disaster. Where I had seen business suits, now I see overalls. Where perfectly manicured hair walked through the city, now it remains an un-shampooed mass knotted beneath a hard hat, while their wearers scramble to rescue and restore my city. From my position, face-down on the ground, I can see the lurking smoke from a smouldering fire in a building fire fighters are still struggling to extinguish. My mind frequently replays the events of that day; those moments haunting me without notice. I remember falling, as if in slow motion, and hearing the smashing of concrete and my body shattering. The noise, the groaning of the earth mingling with the sighing of the buildings that surrounded me! I saw glass and debris fly through the air. After 26 seconds of horror, it stopped. Buildings squeaked to their new resting places. Then; silence. Only for seconds, then the screaming and crying as people came flooding from all directions, many bleeding and supported by others. I couldn’t move, but was forced to remain helpless, still and unmoving as ever, but now without glory; without prestige. Only broken rubble, unnoticed amongst the other debris and shaken lives that passed me, unseeing.
I blink from the memory, and glance around out the corner of my eye. Sirens continue to screech from everywhere, and demolition machinery whirs loudly, causing workers to yell to be heard. Even now, there seems a strong sense of urgency in the air as Urban Search and Rescue teams search for life among the death. A layer of gritty dirt expelled by the earth lies across everything and the sky is grey with dust from fallen buildings. The public are restrained from my city; my friends cannot visit and sit at my feet. Do they know I have fallen? Will they be back?
Rescue workers from all around the world continue to swarm in. Death hangs over it all like a shadow; my usually busy cathedral square is eerie and empty, only men in high visibility vests can be spotted amidst the grey fog. I hear snippets of conversations about swallowed cars and miracle stories, yet my mind clutches the images of my famous cathedral square, where so many Cantabrians spent the days. A smile hovers on my lips as I remember the man and his group that have been down here every Friday evening for years, the inspiration that they are to so many as they reach out to the less fortunate of my city. Now we find inspiration and hope in the courage that risks its life to crawl into a broken building, those who look for life and save it. We find inspiration in tiny desperate patches among these sudden and tragic sights. 12:51, Tuesday 1stMarch 2011. Men put down their tools. Diggers stop. Two minutes of silence begins in memory of what happened here one week ago. Here, inside the cordons. My eyes focus on the rescue workers as they pause. Officials dip their heads in respect. Many swallow sobs as all reflect on this catastrophe. I imagine that if this moment occurred while I was truly alive, salty tears would have run in rivers down my face. Instead I lie mesmerised by the reality that is slowly arriving in the lives of my people. Across the way, a pigeon is released. Found in the ruins of my precious friend; the cathedral, alive and well, he is set free in these silent moments. As he flies to freedom, the diggers around me re-start, the tools are picked up and the work carries on.