– Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

On Feb 22nd I was the head teacher at a large busy preschool. I was in the bathroom with one little girl, when the shaking started I scooped her up to run back to the classroom to comfort the other children but I couldn’t stay on my feet. I ended up on the floor, holding that wee girl tight, terrified. I could hear the children screaming in the classrooms, I kept calling out ‘turtle turtle’ like we’d practiced but they were too scared to remember what to do.

When it stopped and I got back to the classroom I held my head and made eye contact with another teacher, I think I just said “that was big…bigger”. I took a few seconds to just feel what I felt – shock I guess, then I sprung into action, comforting and congratulating the kids to reassure them, running from room to room to check on the teachers and children throughout the centre. We were all ok, very scared but ok. As a team we were stellar – supporting one another and making great decisions for the children, comforting distressed parents as they ran in, often filthy, sweating and crying having run from town and seen horrific scenes on their way.

I have children too – that was the hardest thing, I couldn’t get to them, I couldn’t get any contact with them, I had to wait two hours til I could be a parent and run to them too. I have so much more to tell but don’t think I can right now, how I got to my kids, what happened to us, our friends, how we found each other, how we got through the night of 22nd Feb, the worst night of my life. We’re ok, we’re changed now but we’re strong, we’re resilient, we’re resourceful, we’re ok. We’re grateful too, that’s something.

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