February 22 – I had skipped the last routine in my Les Mills Step class and was in the changing room when it happened. 40 minutes earlier I had been telling a visiting Les Mills member from Auckland that the shocks had calmed down and that the new gym was structurally very earthquake safe. As we were talking we were looking out of the window at construction workers on the wall of the CTV building.
Knowing that the new gym was safe I didn’t feel too much fear when I was being shunted around the changing area. When it stopped I actually started to prepare for my shower when staff came in and told us to evacuate. I was surprised as I hadn’t comprehended at that point how bad it was. I stepped outside and the full horror hit me.
I didn’t want to move from my position in the middle of Cashel St. I had the gym on one side and the Inland Revenue building and adjacent shops on the other and I felt safe. Neither had come down and I thought this was the best place to be. I deliberated about returning to my office on High St but didn’t want to move from my spot. I then saw the hordes of people walking towards me and knew I had to move. I saw the girl from Auckland and we followed everyone to Latimer Square where we stayed for an hour wondering what we were supposed to do. People seemed to be moving away, walking in different directions so we said our Goodbyes and headed to our respective homes. She even lent me $5 in case there were buses running!
The long walk began… the walk through destruction and liquefaction, hoping against hope that our house was OK, wanting to tell someone who knew me that I was alive so the message could be passed on, wanting to know for sure my partner had definitely been where he was supposed to have been at that time – if he was I knew he would be OK too.
4 1/2 hours later I arrived home in Burwood and as I turned the corner I just knew that this time it wasn’t going to be OK. I was right.