The hardworking American Urban Search and Rescue teams were mocked and insulted as they waited at Christchurch airport for flights home.
A reader sent us this link to a wry account, written by an American observer at the airport
I must say: I highly enjoyed watching the Kiwis (and Europeans) at the Christchurch airport today, as they insulted and mocked the US rescue team for being “American” … You’re welcome, folks. All in a day’s work. Just be glad they’re American. Not only did they take the hardest USAR job in a foreign disaster area without complaining, they’re also used to that sort of abuse/cultural racism and are MEN enough to shrug it off. I say pull them all out right now.
…I was at the airport picking up a friend. And there were about 10 of the American USAR team there checking in for flights home. (I think there are 80 here in total…) The guys were there in their uniforms, just talking quietly among themselves, and most of them looked pretty tired but in pretty good spirits. (I really hope NZ is paying for them to fly first class!)
And I overheard some really strange comments, from several groups of bystanders, over the course of my hour-long wait:
“I hope they don’t colonize us [chuckle chuckle].” WHAT?
“Leave it to the Americans to leave the job half finished.” (? They did finish — the hardest USAR tasks — and most are still in Christchurch still working!)
“Look at the flags on their uniforms. Typical patriotic Americans.” (Um, all USAR teams have a flag on their uniforms — it’s required.)
“Obnoxious.” (? 80 guys who spent time away from their homes and families, risking their own lives in order to save lives a foreign country, is not obnoxious.)
“I wonder how much the Americans are going to overcharge us for this.” (WHAT?)
And of course the Americans’ presence prompted the same shamelessly ignorant banter about how Americans are the cause of all the ills in all of world history. Add to that the staring and eye-rolling. The above are just some of the more memorable examples.
Whilst this is symptomatic of anti-American sentiment in New Zealand (something we’ve written about often) we think that its shameful that these brave volunteers were openly insulted in this way. They have worked selflessly in the rubble and ruins of Christchurch, alongside the nationals of many other countries. New Zealand could not have done it without them.
Two days ago the US ambassador to NZ, David Huebner, wrote this on his blog
Our search and rescue team is currently deployed in the 18-story Forsyth Barr Building, working to recover victims believed to be in the collapsed stairwell. The majority of the 90 American rescuers who flew in will remain at least another week, until the Government of New Zealand runs out of tasks to assign them.
We have made our US Army Corps of Engineers available to NZ authorities to discuss the upcoming demolition work required to bring down and remove irremediably damaged structures.
We are fielding multiple other requests and offers from government, philanthropic, and private sources, and attempting to add value by screening and matching offers to needs.
We will be sending an Embassy/Consulate team back to Christchurch tomorrow or the day after to do another round of AmCits activities, including the most difficult task a Consular officer can face.
And we’ll keep at it as long as needed. Because that’s why we’re here.
The work of some is obviously finished. We here at E2NZ would like to pass on our appreciation to all of the real, unsung heroes of the Christchurch earthquake – the Urban Search and Rescue Teams.
What the USR teams were up against