Shaky Scars

Christchurch, March 2012

Are destructive earthquakes still predicted to happen in Christchurch? Apparently. Cantabrians have had their overdose of earthquake experiences. The emotional scars have run deeper than the physical scars in many cases.

It was just by chance that during my time back in Christchurch over the Easter break that the Christchurch Community Response Team (CCR) knocked at the door. Their primary concern is how people are being affected by the continuation of earthquakes, and more importantly how they can help. Another definite concern is how earthquakes are affecting children. What imprints of fear are being etched on these young minds?

CCR have been knocking on doors around Christchurch since March 2011 and have visited over 60,000 homes during that time. The team is a unity of different agencies to ensure continual support for personal wellbeing. There are connections also established with church groups, NZ Red Cross and the Christchurch City Council. Best of all CCR are there if you just need to speak to someone for support. This topic would be of interest for teaching units which examine Earth and Space Science issues, the validity of the information communicated to the public and understanding extreme Earth events in New Zealand.

It has became a regular habit, if not an obsession for Cantabrians to go online for the latest earthquake information. GeoNet is an informative website allowing people to see the latest location and magnitude of earthquakes. It also shows volcanic alert levels. What was interesting was how regular earthquakes are happening. Generally earthquake intensity is light and weak, with magnitudes between 2 – 3, so we often don’t feel them. But they are happening at least once a day on average. The frequency of earthquakes did surprise me.

Quaky Words

How many books have been published about Christchurch’s earthquakes? My nephews triggered this idea when I came across their book Maia and the Worry Bug. Written by Julie Burgess-Manning, a Psychologist and Sarina Dickson, a specialist teacher, the book is focused on how earthquakes can cause worry and fear, and ultimately how to manage these worries. Although written for primary school children, there is also an anxiety toolbox section included at the back of the book. These exercises are for the family and are based on narrative and cognitive behavioural therapy principles. This fascinated me.


The impact of Christchurch’s recent earthquakes is almost immeasurable – even words fail some people to the extent of their experience and memories. But words have not failed everyone. People have chosen to write their experiences in books. “Maia and the Worry Bug” started me thinking about other literature that had been published. I discovered more than I anticipated.

From documentary books published by The Press to personal stories and accounts, there was something for every one of all ages. I came across a  book written from the perspective of a fictional teenage character. It’s essentially her personal account of daily memories during the earthquakes and aftershocks. My New Zealand Story, Canterbury Quake by Desna Wallace, very much reminded me of Anne Frank’s Diary. There were several collections of books with vivid stories told by people. At a quick glance, I found the stories understandably powerful.

There were even books published on Quake Cats and Quake Dogs. And let’s not forget the artists. Pictorial books such as Christchurch Dreaming and Christchurch: An artist’s tribute, illustrates a city before and after the earthquakes. The literature has covered a lot of ground – but then so did the earthquakes in their impact.

2 thoughts on “Shaky Scars

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  1. Beautifully written for a horrific experience that I personally went through. Reading to my children has been beneficial to help them through post earthquake stress.


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