Thursday, 3 March 2011

Celebrations here, sorrow there

A Mobily iPhone

Late one night a few weeks ago, a rather perplexing text came through on my phone.

On the occasion of the Custodian of the two Mosques’ return to the Kingdom, we would like to share our happiness on Mobily Network with FREE SMS Wednesday and FREE MMS Thursday.”

Turns out ‘The Custodian of the Two Mosques’ is the King, who's just returned after being out of the country for the last few months. This has been a signal for widespread happiness and celebration: free texts and a public holiday tomorrow, making a three day weekend.

A few nights later, at around the same time, I received another text. This one was from my daughter in Wellington. It said simply that Christchurch had been hit by another earthquake and that things looked really bad.

As I read reports and saw pictures I realized just how grim things were. Far worse than the quake that hit in September. This time people were out and about, the city was busy and when the quake hit they were vulnerable.

During the day I sat and watched CNN and saw rescuers pulling people from the PGG building. I saw the CTV building reduced to smoke and rubble. I received a text from my son telling me that he had a friend trapped inside. There was little hope, he said.

Later that afternoon, my phone rang.

“You must be feeling so upset,” a voice on the end of the phone said. “Come over for a chat - and, if it would help, a gin and tonic.”

Bemused by the offer of a gin and tonic, and wondering how many other people in the compound kept such covert supplies, it was still good to turn off the television and walk around the corner to someone else’s home. A friendly face and a chat was exactly the diversion I needed.

A few days later, I saw the faces and names of people confirmed dead so far. Of these twenty, there were two that I know.

Sadly – for me and for many others – I am sure there will be more.

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