The old buildings took years to build, about 30 seconds to fall. The Christchurch, New Zealand earthquake strikes at lunch time; dazed and screaming people run in all directions.
Many people are trapped. Emergency Rescue Teams come from all around the world to help us. The heart of our city lies in ruins. Instead of the rebuild from the earthquake five months previously, devastation now seems to reign.
The time-consuming task is removing the rubble to reach the trapped bodies. How many more will they find? Will anyone still be alive? Huge concrete blocks and steel beams must be lifted to reveal the gruesome reality. Dust fills the air.
Aftershocks threaten to drop already weakened blocks; brave men work on, wanting to hurry, but having to do the job slowly, systematically, carefully.
The trivia that used to be so time-consuming is forgotten. Half the city is without power and water, the days spent in survival mode. The living walk down buckled streets for water from the tanks, and bring it home to boil on gas stoves, not complaining but grateful they and their families are alive. Those without sewerage dig a back yard toilet. Queues swell at the gas stations. Armies of people swarm into the streets to dig away the liquefaction, mountains of silt pushed up from under the ground.
Those of us with power and water host our friends for showers and laundry.
And still the digging in the city goes on; relentlessly, purposefully, eating up the time, the workers consumed with the desire to find someone alive.
Amazing stories of rescue and escape emerge, but for many the good stories won’t come.
Another day, another night of time-consuming, painstaking search. A week later, and only bodies are found. How long, O Lord, how many more?
Time is like the city – devoured, eaten up, consumed.
Time will reveal the stories of heroism, escape, miracles.
For now, removing the rubble cannot be hastened.
O Lord, be with be with us all, I pray.
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