Unrelenting images glaring behind closed eyelids.

By 2am Saturday, I conceded insomnia had won.

A police officer stands guard in front of the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch. Photo / AP
A police officer stands guard in front of the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch. Photo / AP

About 12 hours prior I had arrived back to the newsroom after the climate protests.

I jostled some of the rain out of my hair - quite chuffed that I had run the 500m of pavement from the Village Green without going head over heels, fell into my chair and squiggled my mouse.

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Mourners paying their respects at a makeshift memorial at the Botanical Gardens in Hagley Park, Christchurch. Photo / AP
Mourners paying their respects at a makeshift memorial at the Botanical Gardens in Hagley Park, Christchurch. Photo / AP

The screensaver faded and our newspaper's website was leading with something I'd never seen in the Rotorua office before.

It was a story about Christchurch, meaning that for residents in our region there was nothing more significant happening in the world at that moment than whatever was happening in Ōtautahi.

After reading the headline in full, and spilling out expletives, the climate story receded to the back of my mind.

Vigil for Christchurch at Te Papaiouru Marae in Rotorua. Photo / Ben Fraser
Vigil for Christchurch at Te Papaiouru Marae in Rotorua. Photo / Ben Fraser

I fell into a process of writing it in 10-second sprints, with 20-second intervals hearing, reading, and watching reports of what was unfolding in Christchurch.

The city was the hub of everything major when I grew up in rural Canterbury.

Mourners hug in Hagley Park in front of the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch. Photo / AP
Mourners hug in Hagley Park in front of the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch. Photo / AP

Flights, competitions, overdue catch-ups, appointments, expensive purchases, motorways, reliable cell phone reception - all that.

ROTORUA DAILY POST
16 Mar, 2019 8:42am
2 minutes to read

I studied there, I worked there, and eventually I left the safe sense of familiarity there to soak up other parts of New Zealand and other types of reporting after 18 months with ZB.

Masjid Al Noor Mosque, where 42 people were killed on Friday, sits proudly on Deans Ave.

It's neighboured by villas and townhouses, and across the street is the western edge of Hagley Park, with its joggers, dog walkers, netballers, touch players, golfers, and picnickers, and now and again, packed cricket games and concerts.

When the quakes brought down the central city's urban jungle, and unfamiliar buildings grew back, the park remained one of the few constants.

Mourners pay their respects in front of the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch. Photo / AP
Mourners pay their respects in front of the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch. Photo / AP

It's a source of daily refuge.

A solace.

But I won't ever look at that Deans Ave stretch the same way.

It is the now scene of unprecedented violence, in a city that was just getting back on its feet after 185 deaths and billions of dollars of damage in the February 22, 2011 earthquake - also called one of New Zealand's darkest days.

Ishaan Pathan, 9, with Samina Ambakhhutwala at the vigil for Christchurch at Te Papaiouru Marae in Rotorua. Photo / Ben Fraser
Ishaan Pathan, 9, with Samina Ambakhhutwala at the vigil for Christchurch at Te Papaiouru Marae in Rotorua. Photo / Ben Fraser

I can only hope that we can use this despair to help diminish all forms of intolerance - whether it's racism or xenophobia or homophobia and sexism.

That's my new search for solace.