The people of New Zealand are said to be separated by no more than two degrees of separation. Even as an expat Yank without a lifetime of interconnections, I'm only one degree away from Kiwi actor Lucy Lawless aka Xena: Warrior Princess. (I know a guy who played a god on the show a couple of times who knows the lady herself.) So when a major disaster strikes, like yesterday's 6.3 Richter scale earthquake, it didn't matter where you live in New Zealand, you were struck to the core.
Eight hundred miles and Cook's Strait away from Christchurch, we didn't feel the physical shocks of the quake up in the Bay of Islands, but the emotional ones have hit us all. They've been pulling bodies out of the rubble while the nation watches in horror. We've been told there are at least 114 fatalities, but to steel ourselves for many more. There may be as many as 300.
People are still trapped under collapsed buildings and texting to help Search and Rescue find them. I've got a friend who lives in Christchurch no one has heard from. We don't know where she is or if she and her family are safe. We are texting around looking for her. No luck so far.
Christchurch, formerly known as the Garden City, will never be quite the same again. The cathedral is in ruins. Car-swallowing sized holes have sprung up in the roads like in scenes from a Hollywood blockbuster disaster movie. But these things are cosmetic compared to the loss of life.
In a small nation spread over three islands with a total area the size of Colorado (103,736 sq miles) and the population of Kentucky (4.3 million), we will know someone who died or know someone touched by the tragedy. This isn't distant. It is as personal as it gets.
For an eyewitness account of the moment the earthquake hit read this excellent post by David Haywood. Keep up with the earthquake news on Twitter by following the #eqnz hashtag.
Don't forget your own family. Prepare yourself for the next disaster in your area with a DIY 72 Hour Emergency Survival Kit. You never know when disaster will hit.
Kia Kaha, Christchurch. Stand strong. We are all standing with you.
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