Jordan Pearson ASA is an auditor and volunteer firefighter who was on the scene of a shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.
By Katie Langmore
When auditor Jordan Pearson ASA joined the New Zealand Response Team in Canterbury it was, quite literally, a baptism of fire.
“I joined in 2016 and that summer we were deployed to help out on the fires around Christchurch,” Pearson says.
Two summers later, as fires raged near Nelson on the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island, Pearson received a call at work.
“My team leader called the office and said: ‘Get to the airport, you’re flying out in half an hour’.”
Pearson’s team was responsible for giving residents, who had been evacuated, access to their homes for short periods of time.
“We had to keep track of the fires and balance the safety of the residents with their need to be at home,” he says.
“It was quite a satisfying deployment as we worked really closely with police, fire and air force. Seeing all those teams and people from different backgrounds work together to protect the community was really great.”
Pearson ended up helping in Nelson for two weeks. “I’m really lucky that my boss [at Moore Markhams] is reasonable when it comes to letting me go when they need me.”
It’s difficult to imagine anyone in Christchurch not supporting a rescue volunteer after the number of humanitarian crises the city has experienced over the last decade.
“After the earthquake [in 2011], membership of Search and Rescue dropped off. I think what the volunteers saw and had to do would have been very difficult to process,” Pearson says of their search for new recruits.
Pearson had already done medical and rescue training through work as a kayak instructor, so it seemed like a good fit.
“Having lived through the earthquakes, I knew what the teams did and knew it was something I could do to help.”
Yet in March 2019, the voluntary work he’d so wholeheartedly embraced exposed Pearson to horrors he couldn’t imagine. On the day that a lone gunman allegedly fired on worshippers at the Al Noor Mosque on Deans Avenue, he received another call at work.
“We’d heard at work that three people had been shot but when I got the phone call from Search and Rescue saying I needed to get straight down there, I knew things had to be pretty bad.”
Pearson’s office was only five minutes from the mosque, so he arrived amid the chaos of the immediate aftermath.
“We did what we were told to do. We helped St Johns [ambulance and first aid service] and then moved to the hospital to set up another site in case more casualties came in.
“It was pretty chaotic and scary, because we were being told that there might be another shooter,” he says, and then pauses, reflecting on the events.
“It’s hard for me to recall it in detail because I think I’ve mentally blocked it out a bit.”
Pearson says he’s had to think hard, since March, about whether he could ever attend a similar event again.
“I never expected to be involved in the response to something like it, and it’s made me realise that we can be deployed for anything,” he says.
“Yet I’ve decided that if it happened again I would still want to help, because I want to be able to help people and I’m in a position where I have the training to do it this way.”
On 21 March, Pearson will be running The Unity Ultra, a marathon in memory of the mosque victims.
“As soon as I heard about it I knew that it would be a good way to remember what happened that day and raise some money for it all.”
The Unity Ultra
The Unity Ultra is a 51-mile marathon from Akaroa to Christchurch, to honour and celebrate the lives of the 51 victims of the Christchurch mosque attack. Funds raised will support the refugee programs of the New Zealand Red Cross. Go here to sponsor Jordan Pearson ASA.
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