April 15, New Zealand. Life in these islands — cheerfully, drearily, whatever — goes on, bringing with it the fact of what happened one month ago.
We carry it around with us everywhere we go. March 15 will always be a day of mourning as well as a day of something resembling shame. Some kind of sickness has taken hold.
The uplifting slogans — They Are Us, the kia kahas all over the shop — help us get through it and remind us that one of our foundation myths is that we rally around for each other, that we lend a hand. The myth is our everyday reality. New Zealand, land of the decent society.
But still the shame, still the underlying disorder. The killings were an act of carnage unlike anything we've ever remotely experienced.
I stayed in Aramoana a few months ago, three doors down from where David Gray lived, and where he lost it. There's a memorial at the shore with a rather intense message: "A local resident went berserk with a rifle."
But the killing of 13 people doesn't hang over the place. Seaspray hangs over it. Gee it's pretty there, and pretty hard-case.
Christchurch, too, is more than the massacre. More, also, than the earthquakes. But the name, like Aramoana, carries a meaning to the people who don't live there. "Christchurch": It's become code, hasn't it? You say the word or hear the word and it instantly means the place where the shootings happened. It's what the world thinks. It's our Columbine.
Sorrow, disbelief, mourning. Life in these islands — discordantly, changed in some unspeakable way — goes on.
But it doesn't go on for the 50 who were killed. That's who we think about. That's where we put our feeling, that's who we remember, at the going down of the sun and in the morning.