The two stand with their backs to the camera, leaning into each other for support. In front of them, what’s left of their ruined house rests absurdly crumpled, more creases and folds in it than a piece of origami paper. Around them, bricks are scattered across what is now a driveway to nothing. A yellow shrub stands watch unharmed in the front yard near the devastation. You can’t see the couple’s faces, but you don’t need to. Their body language captures the essential truths their facial expressions must hold. You can imagine their pain at losing their home in the Christchurch earthquake.
Photographer Mark Baker with the Associated Press took the widely viewed shot that for many has probably come to symbolize the damage from the quake. In time, most of the property destruction can be made right again. Much of the toll in the wake of the earthquake, though, will inevitably be emotional, and lives were lost, too. Let’s hope there are loss and grief and disaster relief counselors available to offer their resources in assisting the people of New Zealand.
What does home mean to you? For me, it is more than bricks and mortar. It is a personal and private space, a small place of refuge from the world. Furnished and decorated in an eclectic style, among other things it’s a blend of traditional and contemporary pieces, folk art, family heirlooms, items that look vintage but really aren’t and a smattering of industrial antiques from a family business long shuttered. Many of the furnishings are castoffs from relatives, but others I chose. It would be considered fairly modest by some people’s standards, but that doesn’t lessen the attachment I feel. It shelters my husband and me and our two rescue cats, a seal point/snowshoe mix (who sleeps on the top of my printer as I type this) and a long-haired orange tabby. Losing that home to a natural disaster or other event would upend our sense of comfort and security.
Hope Yancey is a counselor and freelance writer living in Charlotte, North Carolina