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Christchurch, New Zealand December 7, 2011

Posted by jayocallahan in Adventures.

Have you ever walked into a city and found all silent? Last Sunday night Linda and I arrived in Christchurch, New Zealand. We walked downtown and aside from a few Japanese tourists there was not a soul. There was a fence around much of the downtown area, which is called the Red Zone. It was a tall wire fence you could look through. The restaurants were closed, as were the shoe shops and clothing stores and offices. No one was serving soup, pizza or coffee or buying newspapers. We could not see a single human being. No doubt there was a cat or two and mice, but we didn’t see even those. There had been a great earthquake in February that had shaken the downtown and miles and miles beyond. We turned to go back to our bed and breakfast and the sun was setting so there was a lovely yellow glow over all this eerie silence. Six hundred buildings had been taken down and we heard another six hundred had to be taken down, and thousands and thousands of homes were destroyed. It was like a war zone. Sad.

The next day we went back and found a small shopping area. A single store like the old Jordan Marsh or Filenes had reopened. The windows were filled with story scenes like Peter Pan. They were like the Christmas windows of years gone by at Jordan Marsh. And in this little area there were coffee shops, clothing stores and appliance stores that were open. They all looked bright. We finally realized the stores were the great steel containers used on ships. Part of the steel was cut away and glass was put in and the containers were painted orange, red, green, blue and black. Some of them were stacked one on top of the other. People flocked to these and to the kind of Jordan Marsh store. It was heartening to see these people coming back after such a devastating earthquake. There was a great sense of life and hope.



1. Sally Eiler Cordova - December 8, 2011

As always, your words were pictures in my mind – erstwhille department stores (I’ve worked for most). Dealing with this year’s Christmas season in retail has been rough. Can we find the spirit again? So much to say, so many stories to write! Sally

2. Marni Gillard - December 8, 2011

Dearest Jay,
You always take us to a new way of seeing…the sadness of an earthly aftershock rarely touches us in the news now, it’s so common between fires, quakes, floods, and more. But you walk us down the street and into the eerie silence. And we can imagine the sadness, the hope, the courage, and the discouragement. Thank you for these words written about a piece of world half a world away.

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