We’re only human
YOU have to love the human spirit. Even in the toughest of circumstances, someone will crack a joke to ease the tension.
It’s a defence mechanism and that humour was evident in the tongue-in-cheek ‘ for sale’ signs that sprang up amid the devastation of Cyclone Yasi and could be found in the dry wit of watersoaked victims of the floods all over Queensland.
And it was there this week in a conversation with a young woman I work with occasionally.
Joey Kingman hailed from Christchurch, where her mum and stepdad still live.
After the domination of the Japanese quake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in the news in recent weeks, along with the revolutions and fighting in the Middle East and now the political upheaval in Queensland, it has been easy for the summer of disaster here and in New Zealand to slip from mind.
But for the people directly affected, the struggle continues. That is why experts like Major General Mick Slater are on the job in Queensland, co-ordinating the recovery – and thank heavens for that.
Our political leaders are back in political survival mode. Having demonstrated in January and February that they really were human and did in fact have exemplary skills in leadership in dealing with the floods and cyclone cri s es, Brisbane L o r d M a y o r C a m p b e l l Newman and Premier Anna Bligh appear to have forgotten that priority still lies in rebuilding the state as they embark on a game of political brinkmanship.
I n Chris t c hurch meanwhile, reminders of the huge forces that killed so many – 182 people are known to have died – and flattened so much of that beautiful city are never far away. With followup coverage here reduced to a trickle, few on this side of The Ditch remain aware of the aftershocks that continue her dear mum, but you understand the thrust of the message. Concern though was for Mrs Groufsky’s partner, Dennis, who runs a coastal f r ei ght business, Pacifica Shipping, on the wharves in Lyttelton. Incredibly he emerged unscathed, despite being at the epicentre.
There was no damage to his of f i ce, but buildings al l around had been flattened. T h e f a c t i t s t r u c k a t lunchtime was something of a miracle. The workers in the businesses around him had all been out. That situation in the port and across the Christchurch CBD probably saved many lives.
But the frequency of aftershocks following the September tremor could have had the opposite effect too.
Ms Kingman’s parents had said, before the February quake, that people were becoming desensitised, despite w a r n i n g s f r o m t h e authorities that a major quake was looming.
For a week after the quake Mrs Groufsky refused to shower without her husband being nearby. She still won’t drive anywhere in case a quake hits and the road opens up.
Her family worries about her insomnia and constant state of fear.
Talking about how her mum and neighbours are dealing with the trauma brought a fleeting grin to Ms Kingman’s face.
‘‘’ She gets a bit of help from her old mate Jack Daniels at night,’’ she said, but added quickly: ‘‘ Not that’s she’s a big drinker.’’
No, but who can blame the p e o p l e o f Chr i s t c h u r c h , Cardwell, Tully, Grantham or Fukushima from adding a shot or two to their coffee as they sit around what’s left of the kitchen table and talk about what’s happened and the road ahead.
That’s how people deal with it. Talk it out. Have a bit of a cry. Comfort each other. Share a joke now and then. Pray it gets easier.