Identification of victims a daunting task

The plight of fellow New Zealanders in Christchurch has been uppermost in our thoughts since the devastating earthquake just over two weeks ago.

Many many have lost loved ones, many have been injured, many have had their homes destroyed and their lives thrown into complete chaos. Thousands …

We live in Wellington and are not directly affected, yet we feel for their suffering.

There has been some criticism about the length of time it is taking to identify and name those who have lost their lives. So much so that this week the Christchurch coroner was interviewed on Close Up (a daily news and current affairs, interviews and commentary program on TVOne at 7.00pm). Sue Johnson is a youngish woman with a blonde bob and red rimmed eyes. She looked as if the weight of the world was on her shoulders and was close to tears as she spoke.

What a horrible task … what right have we to criticise?

Sue and her colleagues perform highly specialised work dealing in tragedy and unbelievable sadness – it’s not for the faint hearted.

She explained the difficulties they were having, not just with the sheer numbers, but with the state of the bodies – crushed, broken, unrecognisable. She talked of the people giving details of loved ones still lost – distinguishing features – and then said how many of the victims’ features had been obliterated. Gone.

I wanted to wrap my arms around Sue, tell her how much we admire her, and tell her that we really do appreciate the work she and her team are doing. I can’t begin to imagine what they’re facing every day, and maybe what they’re seeing at night as they try to get some sleep.

There are fewer stories in the newspaper and less time dedicated now on the TV and radio – yet the pain continues.

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