– Daytona Beach, FL, United States

It was my 50th birthday, I was born on 22 February, 1961 and yet when the earthquake struck I was half a world away in Daytona Beach, Florida on business. Because of the time difference it was still February 21.

The first I heard of the quake was a text I received saying that there had been a big earthquake in Christchurch. Initially I didn’t think too much of it because I had been through the September 2010 quake and the numerous aftershocks. However once I started receiving more texts and then phone calls I knew it was bad. It was all over the news in the US, somewhat to my surprise as one often thinks that to Americans the only news is American news.

My home was, and still is in Sumner which got hit pretty hard but being half a world away it was difficult to grasp what had really happened back home. Feelings of helplessness, despair, anger and fear washed over me, my initial thought was I need to get back home now, but after speaking with family and friends back home they said there is nothing I can do, the damage has been done. Despite this I changed my return flights and managed to fly from Orlando to Los Angeles to Auckland and then on to Christchurch. It was the longest 24 hours of my life.

When I finally arrived at Christchurch Airport I was greeted by my partner, Sharon, we both burst into tears, mine, at least was a combination of exhaustion and not knowing what had happened to my home and the city that I loved. Driving to Sumner though the now devastated streets was like something out of a holocaust or zombie movie, everything was dull and grey, almost lifeless and the further east we got the worse it became.

Although I had been pre-warned I was still not prepared for the shock of seeing my beautiful home in ruins, gaping holes in the tile roof, huge cracks through the drive and courtyard, subsidence under the house and so on but that was nothing compared to going inside. Everything had been emptied out of cupboards and drawers, the contents on the pantry in a giant, sticky mess on the kitchen floor, the oven smashed on the floor, every glass, plate and other breakable smashed, tiles cracked and so on. The contents of the garage shelving emptied into a huge, jumbled pile but still that was nothing until I went downstairs to the bedrooms and my office. An inch of water greeted me as a result of the hot water cylinder bursting and flooding the house for three days non stop, I couldn’t even open my office door as every shelf and bookcase had shed its contents onto the floor, it looked like the scene out of one of those hoarding programs currently popular on television.

The feeling of helplessness and hopelessness was overwhelming, what to do, where to start, who to call and so on and so on. It was all like a nightmare except it wasn’t, it was way worse. Anyway the rest is history, as they say, it is now over 3 years on and I am still battling EQC, builders and the like, much as many of my fellow Cantabrians are.

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