– Burwood, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

A blog entry written on Day 4 after the Feb Quake
We’re certainly not going to forget this quake – far more terrifying than the 7.1 last Sep 2010. Our city has just experienced the disaster scenario we thought we had escaped the first time – an aftershock during the lunch time rush hour that quickly escalated to our worst nightmare. The CBD is in ruins with collapsed buildings. According to news reports, inside many of those buildings at least 108 people have lost their lives, with that figure still climbing. Over 200 people are still missing. It is just chaos. The roads are a mess, liquefaction has left streets resembling sandy, beach strips, with knee deep flooding in areas . So many more homes this time have suffered irreparable damage and most likely will be condemned. We are in disbelief that this has happened to us again, but this time with much more extensive damage and many lives lost. The scenes on the news are tragic – we’re only just seeing them now after days with no power and no t.v. Until now we could only imagine what we were hearing on the radio. Now the t.v images are leaving us in shock all over again.

It is now day 4 after the quake but I think we are all still feeling numb and strange and just wondering. Do we stay? Move? Go up to see family and friends for time away? When will schools reopen again? Am I in any state to go back to work? Will my husband be able to go back to work with his building in the CBD? What income do we live on in the meantime? My mind is just a jumble of so many questions without answers…

I don’t have a miraculous survival story, not even one that is remotely interesting. But for memories sake it needs detailing. I was at home, in the kitchen, when it hit. That all too familiar rumbling escalating quickly into a loud roar, then being accompanied by violent shaking – side to side and up and down. I had just finished cooking cupcakes for my 6 year old’s birthday. When the quake hit, my immediate thought was that it was just another customary aftershock like the hundreds we have already experienced from the 7.1. But as I was thrown and struggled to remain upright, I immediately realised this was major and this meant people were going to die, maybe even me. Holding that thought, I found myself under the archway in the kitchen, being pushed backwards by the force. From that spot I was able to grab a tight hold onto the pole that holds up our kitchen cupboards above the bench. There I clung while I saw the contents of cupboards being thrown out and watched in stunned, disbelief as the heavy fridge slid out from its wall cavity besides me. I could hardly stand, but I sure focused on doing just that.

When the movement ceased, a quick scan of the room showed that almost everything sitting on top of something was now down on the ground. I was shaking so bad that when I grabbed my cell I could hardly hold it still, to txt my husband. So I abandoned the idea and ran out of the house on shaky legs, straight down to school. I just had to get to the children. I must have been one of the first parents down there and it sure helps when you just live around the corner! I just remember that eerie silence on the streets, you know something terrible has just happened. A few others walking past had looks on their faces that I’m sure mirrored my own. By the time I got to school, it was pandemonium out the back field, with children upset and crying. But they were all making their way to their classroom teachers. What a relief to see my 10 year old and 6 year old who were together with their cousin comforting each other. I will never forget those pale, shocked, tear-stained faces – the kind that are meant to belong to people on the news, or in movies – not on my own children. These kinds of things aren’t meant to happen to us. It was my moment of self pity but through it came a quiet, hopeful voice asking “so we are still having my birthday party at Chipmunks aye mum?”. It was the voice of my 6 year old. Surely his birthday was still going ahead – what could be more important to a child? Poor boy, so sorry to disappoint him! But he was somewhat placated with the fact that not every child gets a big earthquake on their birthday!

I soon found out that my children were in the library together when the quake struck. Ceiling panels, shelving, books and furniture had fallen down around them and my daughter related how she saw the fish tank shatter spraying shards of glass and injuring a girl’s leg. She had grabbed onto her brother and dropped down together into “turtles”, but then followed urgent instructions from the teacher to evacuate the building. I’m so grateful big sister and little brother were together during the ordeal.

At school I continued to wait with the children, during which we experienced more sizeable aftershocks, sending already fragile children and adults into panic again – more tears, cuddles, reassuring.

Some time later, I was able to go and get my 4 year old from preschool. He seemed unperturbed about what had just happened, in fact for him, it had turned an everyday turn on the swing into the ride of his life! He told me “There was lots and lots of swinging and I went all around”.

It was at preschool that I received a reassuring phone call from my husband letting me know he was safe and trying to get out of the CBD. It didn’t strike me until later how lucky my husband was inside his 100 year old work building on Cambridge Terrace. Also equally lucky to have retrieved his car only half an hour prior to the quake, from the farmers car park building, for no particular reason either. He parked his car right outside his building and returned upstairs to his office, to tackle the paperwork again when the quake struck. Now he had joined the mass of cars stuck in gridlocked roads and was witnessing sad, broken scenes along the way. A usually, uneventful, everyday 15 minute drive became a 4 hour crawl along creviced, flooded and pot-holed roads.

Our family was so very fortunate. We were able to reunite, give each other hugs and cuddles and know we were all safe.

Others weren’t so fortunate. Our hearts and prayers go out to them. What a devastatingly hard and long road they face.

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