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I missed it

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by Lindsay Shelton
I missed the earthquake. I was out of New Zealand, so I relied on Wellington.Scoop for news of what had happened. After phoning the family, of course, and discovering that everything was okay in Brooklyn.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve heard some amazing stories.

A taxidriver told me how he and his wife and children dived under a table, but discovered that they couldn’t all fit in the small space. A friend described how he jumped up and stopped a bookshelf from falling over. People responsible for staff who were at work have been talking about the challenges of doing the right thing – to evacuate or not to evacuate.

It’s not been a happy time for the people whose cars are locked-down in the carparks which have been closed for a week. No recompense for the loss of their vehicles. And for dog owners – the discovery that their pets can become agitated by earthquakes. A subject which was confirmed in a statement from the Veterinary Association, which was equally concerned about cats, rabbits, budgies and chickens.

The veterinarians’ statement was one of a flood of media releases which followed the earthquake (we published them all on wellington.scoop).

The AA’s positive image took dive with the announcement from its insurance company that it would refuse to accept any new home insurance policies in Wellington. KiwiBank’s positive image then got even better when it followed up with the announcement that it would organise insurance for new home buyers.

Mayor Wade-Brown showed leadership with daily statements. The first one, asking people to stay out of the CBD on Monday, seems to have been taken seriously by almost everyone. People were paying attention.

But some other press releases seemed unnecessary. The Transport Agency told Wellington drivers to “follow the advice of the authorities” and stay out of town on Monday. The mayor and the city’s emergency office had already delivered the message – repetition seemed hardly necessary. And John Morrison’s “stay calm and confident” announcement sounded like a political speech; as a long-term councillor, he should know that he’s on delicate ground when he tells the council what it should have been doing, when he’s had years and years to make things happen.

Several accommodation venues sounded anxious with statements advising that their Wellington premises were safe and guests shouldn’t stay away. Hospitality NZ did the same for the city’s bars and restaurants. “We want everyone to know they can come out for a beer and a meal and some company” they said cheerfully.

The film festival sounded worried when it announced that bookings had slumped after the quake. It was however able to confirm that all its venues had been checked and were safe. Bookings then picked up again. This weekend’s crowds in the big Embassy Theatre will be comforted to know that all the walls of the 1920s building have been strengthened.

Scoop editor Alistair Thompson won a lot of new readers with his expansive “panic! don’t panic” article about the psychology of the quake. I almost felt ashamed to have missed the experience. But walking around town in the last few days, there’ve been plenty of reminders about what happened last Sunday. Not the least of them (top picture) being the extraordinary owner-less leaning lift shaft, which is now being guarded by a corps of security men.