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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Love. . . to all those affected by tragedies near and far

Just over a week ago it was the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the USA. It seems impossible that it can have been 10 years already. Some pictures from the New York attacks can be found here. The images of that day are seared into my brain forever and it seems like only a few years ago that I was watching the tv footage in disbelief with a bunch of teachers at Aboyne Primary School in Aberdeenshire on a seemingly typical Tuesday afternoon. And yet, I realise I now have a tall, slim, affectionate son of nearly 11 years old, and back then on that terrible day I had a chubby, gurgling, smiley 8 month old baby. 

With the anniversary of 9/11 there have been lots of photos reprinted and documentaries on television about the terrorist attacks of 11th September 2001, and the images are no less shocking now than they were then. My thoughts are with everyone who was directly affected by the events of 11th Sept '01. Those effects continue to this day. Even for those of us who lived a world away, the events of that day had huge and lasting repercussions in many cases. There was the hasty realisation that you really do only get one chance at life, and you never know when it may be extinguished. It was certainly a catalyst for our move to Aotearoa/New Zealand in October 2002. Back then I lived in Aberdeenshire, in north-east Scotland and within a few months of the attacks, the idea had been cemented in our minds that we would follow a long-held dream of going to live in the Antipodes, either Australia or New Zealand. That so many people died such a shocking death on 11.9.01 seems utterly futile. Ten years on, the world feels no "safer" and 9/11 survivors are coming down with illnesses caused by inhaling toxic dust as the towers collapsed. My heart goes out to all of them.

I know that the poppy is the traditional flower for remembrance, but I associate daffodils with 9/11 as here in NZ the daffs are usually blooming beautifully by the 11th September. . .
On Thursday morning, I was walking back from school on my day off when I saw these beautiful daffodils and snapped a photo on my iPhone. I was filled with wonder and happiness at their simple beauty, a feeling of being glad to be alive, the sun was shining and all was well in the world. Then a minute later the iPhone buzzed and a text message arrived from the Wifie: Hey I heard on the news that the Mapua Aquarium burnt down early this morning! Very sad :( 

What a quick change in emotions. I was gutted that such a thing could happen to such a well-loved facility in the village, and my first thoughts were with all the amazing sea creatures that would surely have perished. Secondly I wondered if it was due to an electrical fault or something more sinister. At lunchtime I heard on RadioNZ national radio that it was a "suspicious fire", and I began to wonder what on earth would make a person do something so destructive. Then I looked it up online and found this report (with photos) in the Nelson Mail. Below is what the Aquarium used to look like, and it was a very popular attraction with tourists and locals alike.

After school, a lot of the parents took their children down to the wharf to see the extent of the damage. . . it was truly shocking.

Down at the wharf everyone was just flabberghasted that this could have happened. Children and adults were visibly shocked and upset to see the devastation wrought overnight. People stood around in a daze. Sonny Jim said that as word spread at school, children just kept asking "WHY would anyone do this?!" The thought of all those fish, seahorses, sharks and stingrays, turtles and eels dying a horrible death was almost too much to bear. We stayed about 15 minutes, looking sadly at the wreckage, commiserating with friends almost like a bereavement, and were just about to leave when suddenly we heard a child saying "One turtle got out alive!" Sonny Jim raced off in the direction the child told him and I followed on behind. There in a blue plastic box, watched over by the Aquarium's educator, was the only survivor of Mapua Aquarium's fire: a red-eared slider turtle dubbed "Phoenix" the next day by the local newspaper. . . a phoenix rising from the ashes. There is strong community support for the aquarium to be rebuilt, but at this stage I have no idea whether this is a realistic possibility. Latest news in the village is that there is to be an "Aquarium memorial service" down at the Mapua wharf on Weds 28th September at 3.30 pm. All welcome.
I had no answer for Sonny Jim about why someone would do something like this. As well as destroying someone's livelihood and a hub of activity down at the wharf, the culprit(s) killed hundreds of innocent sea creatures. However, the one thing we agreed was that whoever did it must be lacking in empathy and feelings for others. . . I only hope that they are caught and that they might yet be able to turn their life/lives around.

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