We’re only hu­man

Townsville Bulletin - - Text The Editor - Townsville Bul­letin Satur­day, March 26, 2011

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.

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