Searching for victims of disasters

The grim task of searching for the remains of the victims of a disaster is not easy. How do I know? My father, Hector Campbell, was a fireman for much of his life – and for some years we lived at the Christchurch Fire Station – then in Lichfield St.

Being a city kid has meant that’s where I still love to live, right in the heart of city action. However, there was one place in the heart of my city we were never allowed to shop, to visit. It was a place my father lived with all the time. The place he said had “left a smell in his nose” forever. A place near the fire station and where he had helped extinguish a fire in 1947: it was also the place he had searched for victims; had helped remove many, many, burnt bodies – often from the still smouldering building.

Why am I writing about this? Because there are many, many, heroes helping out in the city of my birth, and where I’ve spent most of my life, and some of them will also have to tackle the bleak job of searching for bodies.

Not all the people who have been such heroes are trained professionals, and I hope they are given support to deal with what they may witness, or did, to save their fellow Cantabrians. Now living outside Christchurch, all I can say is ‘thank you’.

Thank you to the people, who gave blood, baked cake and cooked casseroles.

Thank you to the student army who are digging sand from backyards.

Thank you to those who pulled people from cars and buildings.

Thank you to Civil Defence – especially the volunteers

Thank you to the rescue teams from around the world.

Thank you to people donating money to Red Cross.

Thank you to the police, firemen, army, and navy.

Thank you to the guy digging toilets in backyards.

Thank you to Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

Thank you to the engineers checking buildings.

Thank you to a friend for visiting my mother.

Thank you to those I haven’t mentioned.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I hope know that we value your support, and that our gratitude helps make the hard parts bearable.

Finally, thank you to my dad, who gave me my social conscience, and who lived with the pain and smells of a Christchurch disaster always.