– At home in September, Marlow Road and at Eastgate Mall on Feb 22nd.

The first earthquake was a real rattle, Sep 4th, the bed was shaking so hard I find it difficult to get out, I just couldn’t stand the lack of light, ran over to the windows, myriads of cars were going past, I learned later they were trying to flee any Tsunami that was about to hit.

Looking up at the stars was amazing, they were brighter than any I’ve remembered and the atmosphere was strange. When it stopped I tried to ring my daughter and son, but couldn’t get through, the radio was my saving grace, when they said there had been no casualties I settled down and waited for morning. The worst thing about this quake was the lack of power, no water, it’s not the quake, it’s the aftermath.

Feb 21st, I took my two-year-old grand daughter to Starbucks’ at Cashel Mall, we were transported there by bus, right up Colombo St.

Feb 22nd. I was having a cup of tea at Eastgate Mall, and reading about the September earthquake in a ‘That’s Life’ magazine, when there was an enormous cracking sound, I immediately knew what it was, looked up to the glass ceiling only to see the roof going corkscrewing. “I’m dead.” I thought, then threw myself under the table, as did everyone else, I’ll never forget the terrified expressions of three businessmen who were grasping each other like elephants’ holding tails. I was surprised, you don’t see that many men dressed in suits in Eastgate, and they were just as scared as everyone else.

Then I could hear the glass cracking, I didn’t know whether it was the Atrium or the side panels, but hunkered down and waited it out. There were people screaming, the quake was that violent, and the glass breaking all around us was unreal. When it was over I picked up my purse (which I’d thrown away when leaping under the table, most unlike me.) There was glass all over the floor, we picked our way swiftly towards the nearest door, nobody panicked, I’m proud to say, but everyone was unnerved. There were many people hugging and crying on the street.

There was a young woman who was dazed, I offered to drive her home, to get my car I had to go right round the mall to the car park as I walked round there were two large walls in the Warehouse that had come down. I ran to the car park looked at the concrete floor above my car that could collapse at any time, but leapt into my car anyway, buzzed outside as quickly as I could, then there was another big one. I managed to get the woman into my car, drove her to her Wainoni Road address. After I dropped the woman off I saw a young Asian schoolboy walking in the middle of the road, I gave him a lift and asked if he was scared. “No, I am from China where there was the 8.8 quake. That shut me down, what could I say, grin.

The traffic was grid-locked, it took me two hours to get home.

I drove to my sister’s house in Doreen St. to check if she and my niece were okay, my niece had terminal cancer at the time, so I thought maybe she might have to go somewhere, but they were okay, except for all the smashed crockery, etc. I then attempted to drive home to Marlow Road, but parked my car instead because I could see cars at odd angles, all abandoned down Marlow Road and knew I couldn’t get my car home. You couldn’t see the road at all due to the liquefaction, so I had to walk to my house in knee high gunk, wearing my best shoes,swearing all the way. When I arrived home, my son was waiting at the gate, so glad to see he was okay, then saw my collapsed garage and chimney in bits all over the drive.

Long story short, this has been a very dangerous time, some have endured it, others have gone for good, I have lost many friends and acquaintances because of their fear for them and their children. Totally understandable, but I saw the bravery of the roadies, the Emergency Services from all across the world, the Red Cross etc. and knew that Christchurch was still a good place to live.

My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones, nothing can remedy that, except knowing that an entire city, if not the entire country grieved with them for their loss.

The next day I was driving through Brighton, on the side of the old Esplanade Hotel was a sign written in chalk. ‘Kia Kaha Christchurch” that brought out all the emotion and sadness. It’s small touches like that that make me realise I never want to leave this city and the wonderful people in it.

Thanks for the opportunity to say this.
Kathy Himiona

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