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Importance of Resilience

Two events in New Zealand in the past fortnight have highlighted the importance of resilience.

Resilience is the ability to bounce forward when the unexpected happens, to see hope in spite of extreme difficulty, and to keep moving, a millimetre, a microsecond, one pedal stroke or shuffling step at a time.

On February 22nd a deadly earthquake struck Christchurch in the middle of the working day. Two fairly modern buildings, weakened by an earlier earthquake crumbled in on themselves entombing hundreds. Many of the gorgeous neo-gothic buildings that made the city so special have ended in dust and crumbs. At this time over a hundred and sixty are confirmed dead, and the rubble hides many more.  Searchers are no longer looking for survivors.

A huge number of people lost family or friends, their place of work, their car, their home. Essential services like electricity, telecommunications, water, and sewage are still unavailable to thousands.  People are making do, often with no idea if or when their family, home or income will be restored.

In the immediate aftermath of the quake, despite the danger to themselves, ordinary people rescued the injured and trapped, family cars became makeshift ambulances, strangers comforted the dying.  A doctor and police officer amputated a trapped man’s legs with a hacksaw and Leatherman tool, saving his life.  Despite their own fear and the imminent danger of building collapse, the frightened and traumatised earthquake victims shone.

A cordon around the central city was breached more often by people wanting to save their pets than those wishing to steal from damaged businesses.
People’s resilience kept them able to survive the frightening aftershocks, to check on their neighbours, to share what they had.  Although some left the city, too traumatised to stay, most remained to have a hand in normalising then rebuilding the city they love.

Yesterday was the 27th running of Ironman New Zealand. Twenty-two Christchurch athletes competed, some on borrowed bikes and in friends’ wetsuits as they had lost their own two weeks earlier when the earth shattered their city.  It did not shatter their dream though. They still made it to the start line.
Despite torrential rain over the whole 17 hours of the event 1400 athletes swam 3.8km, cycled 180km and ran or staggered a marathon. The quake-struck competitors wore special race-numbers in the red-and-black of their province. Theirs was an especially hard journey.

While all competitors will pack their bikes tonight and head home to known comfort, running water and flushing loos, the Christchurch athletes return to a devastated city. The resilience they have gathered over the past year or more of training for their Ironman event will build on that they already had, and will help them get through.

Our resilience enables us to move forwards, even if it’s on our hands and knees, even if we weep all the way, knowing that somehow we will get through.

Every athlete on the course yesterday, every person caught up in the tragedy of Christchurch had to dig deep, for deep is where resilience will be found.