The Salt Shaker in New Zealand



                                              The Salt Shaker in New Zealand

Passing by a small coffee/pizza place on Victoria Street that is currently closed brought me back to the thinking of the horrible earthquakes that changed the lives of the people in this city. There were two earthquakes: The 2010 Canterbury earthquake (also known as the Christchurch earthquake or Darfield earthquake) with a moment magnitude of 7.1 at 4:35 a.m. local time on 4 September. The second one had a magnitude 6.3 shock that occurred on 22 February 2011. Because this aftershock was centered very close to Christchurch, it was much more destructive and resulted in the deaths of 185 people.

            The coffee/pizza place was not completely destroyed, but glancing through the window I could see “ all the things that were left there” in the moment that the earthquake  happened.  I could see the tables, chairs, table covers, plates, cups, silverware and the one object that made me completely stopped, a saltshaker. It was still filled with salt, untouched by anyone else after the last person that was using it flee the place in a hurry. It was there, placed in the middle of that table, with the other sauces and napkins around standing so still, and again so untouched by anyone else.

Many thoughts came to my mind. I thought of the person who used it for the last time. Who might that person be? A female or a male? A child or an adult?  Was this person happy or sad? Was she or he enjoying his or her meal or not? Was  she or he in a hurry to finish it or just relaxing? What was her or his conversation about? What she or he with his or family or alone? 

The second earthquake happened at 12:51 p.m.,  so it was in the middle of lunch time, and then again, I thought, what  was this person  really feeling before the moment of horror about to witness? Of course, I could never know, but I can imagine the fear and despair that this particular person must have felt in that moment.  Thank God I have not experienced anything like an earthquake, but the stories I have heard horrorized me, and I can also see the damages left behind. 


I can still see the sadness in my coworkers’ eyes when they talk about their experiences. One of them explained to me that she was almost trapped inside a car and that her quick reaction saved her life. That for her that was a near death experience. Some of the students that I work for who were toddlers during that time, have many problems with their behaviors because of the stressed they were under. I know a particular case of a girl that can’t be seated on the back of the bus when she goes on a field trip with us because she gets extremely anxious and starts throwing up. When I asked my supervisor, she only replied that was a reaction she has manifested after the earthquakes happened.

The aftermath of a  devastating  earthquake is something that only can be well explained by those who suffered through it.  I am sure that there are many stories untold, and that will remain a mystery to me and the world. In my case, I would have  liked to meet and heard  the story of the person who was using the salt shaker. I would  never know exactly about her or his life. I will never know how this person recovered from that moment, or if she or he lost  a loved one like many others. I will never  know if this person gave up on this city and moved away,  or if she or he still lives here with the hope or a new Christchurch rebuilt.

I wish I could meet this person and tell her how sorry I feel for her or him to have to go through a disaster like that. I would also like to tell him or her, that I had also felt despair and sadness when I had to leave my country, Cuba, behind at a very young age. And it wasn’t because of an earthquake. It was because of a dictatorship was pretending to cut my young wings to fly. A dictatorship that still remains visible to the world. And that made my family and I leave our country because we didn’t have freedom. And I wish I could also say this to that person, that at least if she or he is a survivor. He or she has the freedom to rebuild this wonderful city and be a part of a new vision and a new Christchurch. I know that I am a witness and a helper to a new Christchurch, and I hope that this person is too.  

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