that people will remember first.
There was a very minor incident here about fifteen years ago and I remember a "crack". Our last cat had been sitting on the windowsill. He jumped into my arms and quivered. It made me wonder what animals understand about such things.
The city of Adelaide is built on a fault line that extends into the north of the state. There was an earthquake which did some damage when I was still a pre-schooler. I can remember waking, probably because of the noise, and seeing the small wardrobe in my bedroom swaying backwards and forwards before my father rushed into the bedroom and carried me out into the night. Nothing else happened but the memory remains.
Since that time we have had a number of minor incidents which have caused minor damage. We have been told that one day there may well be a much bigger incident. Our present house was built so that it rests on the foundations. This is supposed to help.
Most people here are not concerned. Why should they be? They believe that such an event is unlikely. The ground beneath their feet seems solid.
I have no doubt that, despite the events of last year, most people in Christchurch felt the same way. We do not want to believe that anything like that could happen to us. We do not live in the developing world where those sort of disasters are almost commonplace.
There will be very little work, if any, for me as a result of the Christchurch incident. Almost everyone there will speak English. Interpreters will not be needed in the same way. Communication difficulties (and there will be many) will be of a technological nature. I am grateful for that but I know that there will still be people who will be required to do the same sort of work as they do in any disaster zone. Public health, disease control, treating the injured, burying the dead, clearing the rubble etc is just a start. Then there is reliving it all through inquiries and getting your life back into some sort of order. That can take years. Somewhere like Haiti will not recover for generations.
It is all too easy when we see disasters unfold on the news services or, as in my case, they come in through a news feed, to distance ourselves. It does not seem "real". There is a psychological mechanism which allows us to "switch off". It seems we need to protect ourselves, as TS Eliot says, "Humankind cannot bear very much reality."
They say it is the noise of an earthquake but I wonder whether it is the silence beneath that noise.