Disrupted lives – living with earthquakes. Diary entries following 22 Feb 2011
Sandy Bay, Governors Bay, Tuesday 22nd February, a beautiful morning with fog decorating the harbour early, and lifting to sun and warm temperatures.
And our world was to change forever.
I can still feel the violence of that shaking, the attack on my whole being as I was thrown to the floor of the sitting room, earth bricks, books, paintings and ornaments crashing around me. I can hear my long guttural screams, only pausing to take a breath before the next one begins. And I can hear my housekeeper’s screams from the upstairs landing, matching mine, filling the gaps where mine ended and hers began.
The world as we knew it was ending. My loved ones, her loved ones, where were they, how were they faring this time around?
The horror of September 4th we could not imagine could have been repeated in our lifetime and yet this was not a nightmare – it was real. I could smell the burning wool and see the iron lying now face down on the carpet, thrown from the board where the ironing was recently being done.
I tried to get up, to move away, but it was impossible. The floor was throwing me upwards. Thrust by the viciousness of invisible enraged forces emanating upwards from the earth, this benign place, now the site of rage from an unseen beast. I think of the grandchildren and their seeking of reassurances from their grandmother.
“Is the earth asleep today, Granny?” (Grace, 5 years).
“Ganga, please stop the ground moving.” (Inaki, 4 years)
And the months of slowly gaining normality, hoping we had managed the worst after September 4th, and that we were heading towards better things. Now that hope was over.
Our home, the oasis of warmth and richness of colour and life, now catapulted into utter confusion and destruction.
What has happened to those I love? They are all in the city that day; they cannot all have survived this.
And then it is quiet. I get up and find my way through the chaos to the patio under the grapes outside. I can hear voices across the Bay. I call, “help me.” I am not physically hurt but I am psychologically. The voices call back, “Rosie, are you okay?” I am ashamed of my calling, yet also happy to hear human response in the Bay and to have the reassurance and warmth of people arriving. First a man I have never seen before or after, with an English accent. He appeared and we hugged and then he disappeared. And then a neighbour, looking so pale, but calm, and S, another neighbour. He was in a role of organiser and was calm and reassuring.
A voice calls to me from across the creek separating the neighbour’s house and mine across the valley. It is my dear friend K, the one I had been just about to visit to get an egg for the crème caramel custards I was making for that night. “Rosie, where are you?” She followed my voice, clambering across the creek and arriving at S’s house where by now more and more of the neighbours were arriving, pale faced, each with their own trauma from the previous minutes.
K had run from her home about 10 minutes away, anxious to locate me and see how I had fared. She found the house, all doors swinging open and in such disarray and no me. After spending some time with me we walked back to my property and got the car and found my dog, wet and covered in biddibids and terrified, and then we drove to check on other friends and back to K’s place so she could join her family.
Another shock hits and I look up and see rocks thundering down the hills about the Governors Bay Pub and the Llamas galloping in front, fanning out to avoid being hit. Amazing and horrifying.
I still do not know what has happened to my family. How are they, where are they? Texts are coming in sporadically, mostly people asking where are we, how are we, texts from the outside world, the unaffected world.
I hear on a car radio from a man sitting in a driveway that the city is badly affected and that buildings are down and that there is loss of life. My God.
It wasn’t until 4 days later as we settled into a motel in Kaikoura that were able to get on the internet and send a message to friends and family around the country and around the world to let them know how we had all fared.
This story is an extract from an unpublished manuscript written by Rosie Belton between 4 September 2010-22 February 2012. Read more of Rosie Belton’s writing here