On Friday this week it will be our 5th wedding anniversary. The first 2 were relatively uneventful, in that way that wedding anniversaries are. I’m sure they were lovely and loving and all of that, but that has been overshadowed.
Our 3rd wedding anniversary was spent overlooking the most devastating scene I have ever personally witnessed. Ever optimistic, I booked our usual room in the Sofitel hotel in Brisbane CBD. It’s where we spent our wedding night, and we’ve started a tradition of staying there each year.
But 2011 was just a bit different. We woke on our anniversary morning to find the hotel swarming with armed forces personnel, who’d been stationed there. I walked to work through the eerily deserted streets to see staff from shops and offices reinforcing windows with tape and pushing sandbags up against doors. Roads were closed, but I managed to find a way across the river. Arriving at work (a large maternity hospital) where at the time I was working in the IT department, I ended up being seconded to transport babies to the Gold Coast hospital via ambulance. At that point the hospital was on emergency power, and all patients who could were being evacuated.
I remember vividly the trip to the Coast. Me and my little bubba in the back of an ambulance, and as it was school holidays the theme parks were absolutely packed. I felt like screaming at people, did they not know that just down the road was mass destruction and loss of life? How could they PLAY under such circumstances?
And then driving back to the hospital in a taxi, the reality hit home when the taxi driver wanted to drop me off away from the hospital so he didn’t have to get too close. We’re a block from the river you see, even if it’s up hill, and he wasn’t sure he’d get home. At that stage I hadn’t even given thought to getting home to my house. Friends had been totally cut off and were uncontactable, at that stage I didn’t even know if they were alive, only that they had no power and no phone.
It was surreal. The weather was a perfect summers day, low 30s, clear blue skies (the rain had ironically cleared up completely), and the only sign of anything different was the fact that from the hospital you could see the river. About 7 metres higher than it was normally!
But the big thing to come out for me that time was the community spirit. When the river came down enough to let people through to my old home, I went to help clean up. With thousands of others. Armed with shovels, compressors and high pressure water hoses, sledgehammers and gloves, we spent days cleaning mud, knocking down saturated gyprock and generally helping. Even businesses were getting down to it. At Bellbowrie where I was, the local Pizza Hut and Dominos took turns to deliver pizza to the workers and residents. A car would turn up with food from both companies on the back seat, and they’d walk around delivering it. People who weren’t physically capable of helping drove around with kegs of drinks and sandwiches. People with power and water invited complete strangers in to shower and eat.
It renewed my trust in humanity. On a daily basis bad things happen to good people, but deep down I cannot lose faith that people are genuinely good for the most part. Some individuals aren’t, but most are.
My wedding anniversary will forever involve tears and reflection. I look back with thankfulness to the day I married the love of my life, and gratitude that I was not directly affected, and compassion and empathy to the people I know and strangers who are still recovering from this event. And this year I hold my breath and hope for the people in many areas who are threatened with devastating bushfires that have already destroyed lives and homes.
Gratitude. I think that’s the point of my post. Every day, I try and find something for which to be grateful. I’m feeling a bit whingy at the moment because I injured myself, and I can’t run for two weeks. TWO WEEKS! That’s too long! But it’s not really. It’s only two weeks, and in the big scheme of things it’s not a long time, and it’s a pretty minor thing to be annoyed about. Really.