Thursday, 25 December 2008 - 11:38 am

Getting up again

There was no Christmas magic to draw us from slumber today.  No filled stockings, no presents, no angel smiling down from the top of a tree.

I was woken up by an earthquake this morning.  Sunlight was bleeding through the dustcloud, so it must have been a little after dawn.  The people around me woke up shouting, ready to panic.  The building above us moaned, its joints creaked, and what few windows were left shattered – someone shouted for us to take cover.  I think it might have been me.

The thunder of it was deafening.  By the time it had rolled itself out and over us, the dust was thicker, the day grown darker.  We picked our way out again; it was like deja vu.  It feels like I’ve been clambering over broken shards of steel and concrete forever; my feet have forgotten what a flat surface feels like.


The wind picked up today; it helped to clear the dust load.  Those of us who had taken shelter in the department store gathered in the street and stared as the layers were peeled away from the air.  It looked like the city was sloughing skin.

There was a gap in the skyline.  Not far off, but right here, right next door to where we were sleeping.  One of the skyscrapers had come down – the home of one of the big banks.  The thunder and the shaking were its death-knell.  The restaurant at its base was gone, obliterated – there wasn’t a scrap of it left. 

Some of the injured had been in there.  I remember helping to lie them on the tables.  I remember using torn-up tablecloths as bandages.  Others had stayed there to look after them.  Now thirty storeys of building was piled up on the place where they were sleeping, and it barely came up to my chest.


I don’t know what to feel any more.  Standing there, staring at the rubble, numbness crept over me.  I could feel it rising up from my stomach, right up through my chest, and I thought it would choke me if it got as far as my throat.  I thought then that I might just break.

Then someone asked what we should do.  I looked around; it was my shadow from yesterday.  He was covered in dust – we all were – and the dirt was streaked across his face as if he was playing soldiers and this was his camouflage.  He was looking at me for answers.  Me, of all people.  What the hell do I know?  But I could see it in his eyes.  I could see me, I could see that rising feeling, I could see him looking for a way not to break.

I told him the first thing that came to mind: go find us something to eat.  I had hardly eaten a thing yesterday and the dust seemed to be sucking us all dry.  Food and drink; that’s what we needed.  I told him to go check the department store’s café.

He ran off and suddenly I wished that I’d gone with him.  The last thing I needed to do was stop and think about everything too much.  It’s hard enough now, when I’m too exhausted to feel much of anything. 

Then I noticed that other people were looking at me as well, in the same way the boy had.  What was I supposed to do?  It’s not like I have a plan.  I fell back on yesterday – I told them to start looking for survivors.  So we started that all over again.


The kid came back with food and bottled water.  Dillon – his name is Dillon.  I stopped and asked him.  When he asked what mine was, I didn’t know what to tell him.  The only person who calls me ‘Faith’ is my dad – everyone else calls me Mac.  I haven’t liked my name since I was a kid, since my mother went on about how beautiful it was, since it became a burden, and an imperative.

I didn’t know what to tell him.  Mac feels like a different person to me right now.  Faith MacIntyre, I said.  My name’s Faith MacIntyre.  What he does with it from there is up to him.


Everyone has a face like his, teartracks streaking dust into grey camouflage.  Everyone except me.  I haven’t cried yet.  I can’t feel anything.

I think there’s something wrong with me.


I can hear them calling – they’ve found another survivor.  I have to go.