– Cathedral Square, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

On the morning of February 22nd, I made the decision not to send my eldest daughter to Kindergarten as she had a cold and I didn’t want her sharing this with her classmates.

I had been meaning to go into town to do a few jobs having not been in there for over 6 months. I rang my mum, picked her up, with my two young girls in the back seat headed into town.

We parked in the Lichfield Street carpark and then headed straight for Ballantynes to do our shopping. By then it was lunchtime and I recall standing at the Lichfield Street carpark elevator ready to head home when we changed our minds and made the decision to head across the Square to Chancery Lane to buy a present. I suggested we had lunch along the way.

We crossed Cashel Mall and I glanced over at the Whitcoulls building, wondering out loud to mum when it might reopen. It would have been approx 12.30pm that day. We stopped down Colombo Street for a quick bite to eat then carried along Colombo on our way to Chancery Lane. Thanfully, we bumped into aquaintances of mum who we spent 5 minutes talking to.

We were crossing Cathedral Square about to head down the ramp to cross Worcester Street into Chancery Lane, me in front with my 9 month old in her stroller, mum behind with our 4 year old when the earthquake struck.

The force of the initial jolt flung me to the ground. I held onto the stroller and yelled at my mum and eldest daughter to get down. We held onto the ground as the earthquake struck in waves. I was side on to the Cathedral to my left and the Grant Thorndon building to my right. I remember hearing a crack like a tree being felled, turning and to my horror seeing the Cathedral’s spire fall. I knew at that point how catastropic this earthquake was.

We waiting on the ground until the movement ceased then looked around the Square to plooms of dust and debris, with locals and tourists cowering under trees.

My eldest daughter went into instant shock, shivering and sobbing uncontrollably wanting to be picked up so that she didn’t have to walk on the ground. We headed to the Police Qiosk in the square to see if there was any medical assistance there. I remember looking at my youngest daughter in her stroller and only then noticing how she was covered in dusk, reminding me of the pictures on tv of the survivors of 9/11. Sitting outside the Qiosk were injured people, also covered in dust and the most vibrant claret coloured blood I have ever seen.

I tried to shield my eldest daughter from these scenes, but couldn’t shield her from the horrendous noises of sirens, then helicopters, ambulances and peoples panicked and shocked faces as we were evacuated out of the square by the police.

That day we met the most kind and generous man, who has since returned to his native home of Argentina, who offered us a lift home after we met him crouching together as aftershocks hit in the square.

We left home around 10.30am that morning to go into town and didn’t arrive home until 6.00pm at night, tired, hungry and in shock but so grateful that we were one of the very lucky ones.

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