– University of Canterbury Commerce Building

I remember being in a lecture that was held in one of the bottom floors of the Commerce Building at Canterbury University. The class was just about to be told what to do for Thursday’s class and then the quake hit. At first I thought that it was just another aftershock, but when the power went out and the room felt like someone picked it up and bouncing it around, I realized that I needed to get under my desk, which was unfortunately a very thick wooden one. The shaking got worse but eventually it stopped. I thought that that aftershock had been a particularly powerful one. Five seconds once the quake had ended, we were all ordered to get out of the building, so I grabbed my textbook and my bag and ran for my life out of the Commerce Building. I did not even stop to look at the tiles that had ripped off the wall. My mind was already racing and fearing.

We all got outside and were all evacuated to the Ilam fields. Then the first aftershock hit. All you could hear were people screaming. Some laughing for some reason. I must have spent fifteen minutes walking around University in a daze trying to figure out what to do. It was then that a student told me that that aftershock was 6.3 on the Richter scale and located in Lyttelton which would explain why it shook like hell at University. The student also told me that the cathedral’s spire had come down and that one person was already reported as dead. At first I thought that this was just a rumor, but it did manage to make me make my way down to Christchurch Hospital to see if my family was OK.

I began a very daunting walk down Riccarton Road. I felt like I was walking in a daze. What I saw was broken buildings and people running out of Riccarton Mall. I made my way to the end of Riccarton Road and was just about to go to Christchurch Hospital when another aftershock struck causing me to hold onto a fence. This was the one time in my life that I feared that I would die. This aftershock kind of made me run into South Hagley Park. I spent hours trying to navigate amongst distressed citizens, tourists, and children. Eventually I saw the Museum and realized that I was close to Christchurch Hospital. My hopes lifted, I ignored the warning from the military of crossing the bridge and just ran to Christchurch Hospital. I made it to my family and got a big hug from my Mum. This seemed to say everything.

Having found my family, we made our way to St. Martins which looked like a swamp. There was liquefaction everywhere, and part of the St Martins library had collapsed. My grandparents were too traumatized to say anything. I had never seen them look so upset. At six o’clock we decided to leave. What would normally be a twenty minute ride from St Martins to Burwood turned into a three and a half hour drive. I saw the west wall of Linwood mall leaning on a pole. This was another sign that this quake was much worse than the quake on September 4th in 2010. Later that night we made it home. The house was still standing, but I was not prepared for the mess inside. Everything had just fallen on the floor, books had done the Domino effect in my room. We didn’t have power that night. We all tried to eat something, but we all felt sick upon hearing the stories that dead bodies were being pulled from the CTV Building. The power didn’t come back until Thursday afternoon. It was then that the full extent of the damage made itself apparent. The death toll had reached 100 and was expected to rise.

Time seemed slow after the earthquake. The trauma from that day in February never seems to leave. Everywhere you go, the damage caused from the February quake is apparent…

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