A letter to Christchurch

UC Arts Digital Lab intern, Melissa Bellitte, shares her reflections after attending the Civic Memorial Service on the seventh anniversary of the 22 February earthquake.


Let me start off by saying Cantabrians are very lucky people. It seems odd to use that term, lucky, given today is the 7th year anniversary of the earthquake, yet I feel it must be said. The city of Christchurch is lucky to have each other, and the unbound support and dedication to not only the victims of the earthquake, but the city itself.

As someone born in New York, I was unsure how I would feel going today’s service. Would I be welcomed there as an outsider? Will I truly understand them?

Yet as they often are, my fears were unwarranted. As I made my way into the crowd looking upon the Memorial Wall, I saw people of all ages, some were women and some were men but they all had the look of remembrance upon their faces. It looked as though the healing had begun but today was a day to let the feelings in and any unbridled emotion and grieving be felt all over.

When you are handed a pamphlet with 185 names on it, at first it may not seem like much. Yet, when those names are read aloud and time goes on seemingly to infinity the magnitude of the devastation settles over your mind. For me this was so powerful, I even began to cry.

Afterwards, the moment of silence at 12:51 was, at least for me, a silent goodbye and feeling of acceptance to the people I will never know. It reminded me of being a kid and every year we had moment of silence in our classrooms on 9/11. Very mesmerising, and something perhaps we should do more than once a year. The silence to me also seems like a deep breath. A way to cope with the bad and look at the future. When disaster happen it is up to us as individuals, and more important, which I have learned from Cantabrians, the collaboration of a community. We cannot talk about only sadness and despair on a day like today. We must also grab tightly those close to us and pave a path that was better than the one we were walking. To embrace each day because we never know when it will be the last. To make something beautiful of a tragedy, and encourage the roses growing from the cracks in the pavement. Those that experience tragedy, experience pain and true hardship also are the ones that know how precious life is. It makes us stronger, and puts us in the position to use our voices to help others.

Sadly we cannot go back in time and change the natural events of that day. What we can do however is remember, and in our remembrance those we lost will live on through us and through what we make of this city.

On a personal note, this day weighed on me harder than I knew it would and am proud I can be a part of a project that knows everyone has a story to tell, everyone has a memory made. The future is now up to us.

Sincerely yours, 


Photographs by Melissa Bellitte, licenced Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0 NZ