I'm frightened of this column, frightened of where to begin. I don't know if I can find the right words to reflect the pain and the fragility of the week.

I seem to have floated through it in a fog of disbelief. First came the news of the death of Brian Gaynor's son, David, during the King's College ball. It seemed impossible that such an intelligent, senior boy could die the way he did. Such a bright boy and such an obviously good looking and popular boy.

"Our Beautiful Boys" cried the Dominion Post front page, and the headline said everything.

We've been reading Brian's stuff for years. His piece last weekend on how the Brierley AGMs have changed over 30 years showed not only his vast experience in his field but a poignancy as well, the poignancy of the passing of the years. Brian was an intelligent, constructive and charming guest on Q+A once. How could this happen to Brian and his family?

And with the news came the inevitable gloating about King's, as if all of New Zealand's most worrying youth problems happen only at King's.

Never mind that the admirable and clever Danielle Hayes, last year's New Zealand Top Model, has been trying to get the country to focus on the staggering rate of teenage suicide in Kawerau - 13 in the past 18 months.

The attitude to King's is often prurient. Each tragic event is seen simply as another example of how the rich and privileged are worse than anyone else. You might be rich but look, your kids are dying, so there!

I've been part of the King's family. My son went to King's. It's is a wonderful, caring school. It did its best for my boy. The work the teachers put in was, I felt, extraordinary. Boarding at King's gave my boy a certain structure to his life that I felt he needed.

So that was Monday morning. I felt mortified for Brian and his family and deeply sad for King's.

This week, I went back to my old school, Karamu High, down the state house end of Hastings and I spoke to the senior and junior school about things I've learned since I used to sit where they were sitting right now. They listened. I told them how much I loved this school and that I, like them, am a student of Karamu and there was no difference between us because once I sat where they were and I told them how sad I was for King's too.

I saw again at Karamu what I've seen at schools all over this country, that no matter what the decile, no matter how much or how little money is floating round that school community, schools are places of hope and endeavour, of love and compassion, of construction and of everyone doing their best. In respect of the human spirit, I thought, there is no real difference between King's and Karamu. The cars at the gate are the only difference, really.

Then came the Christchurch earthquakes. Whack, whack, slamdunk, thump, and Christchurch was on its knees again. You sensed that this time, its heart was broken. And now, as the frightful new damage emerged over the next few days, you sense that the time has come for some hard questions.

First, the question of where we start to rebuild became even harder. Should they even begin to rebuild the CBD? It's on a fault line. What is the point? With GNS giving those terrible odds on the likelihood of another earthquake over the magnitude 6, what's the point?

How can you invest the billions of public funds with those odds against you? It's madness. As for east of the CBD, forget it. It's shutdown time. It could be that it's time to move everything currently east of the CBD to the other side of the airport.

No one has said this yet, but are we going to get to the point somewhere down the line when we'll we have to admit that we cannot afford to spend these vast sums rebuilding what we know now is a seismic basket case? We are not a rich country. How can we afford, we have to ask ourselves, that new $6 billion worth of reconstruction that Monday will cost us? How long can the rest of the country pay the Christchurch bills?

But the disturbing thing to see this week was the heartbreak of the people of Christchurch. Just as you think you're getting ahead, here it comes again. Just when your street is finally clear of liquefaction's water and sludge, suddenly there's an ocean of the filthy crap erupting through the cracks.

Just as you got your power back on for winter, suddenly it has gone again with the cold kicking in. Just when you could go to the lavatory inside, you're hustling down the street to the filthy portaloo again.

Just when you were thinking they might let you back into the Red Zone, the chances of that happening soon are back to zilch.

What's more, you're trapped, even if you do want to get out, as so many have and so many obviously want to do. You've got a mortgage. Who's going to buy your house? Who, now, in their right mind, is going to buy a house in Christchurch? Even if you buy in one of the safe parts, why would you? How are you going to sell it if you want to later?

I do not envy the decision-makers. Apart from two world wars, no government has ever had to grapple with a problem like Christchurch.