Driving down Colombo Street Sydenham, outside ANZ, I knew it was a big quake when the shop awnings were at eye level and people fell on the street. I pulled over and parked in a safe space, as I looked in my mirror I saw building collapse into Colombo Street.
As I parked my car, grabbed my phone and keys and ran back into the mayhem.
I had been an Emergency Nurse for 15 years and had done specialist training in “Multiple Casualty Disaster Triage”, so even though I no longer work as a nurse, I went onto auto pilot.
The Tasty Tucker cafe had collapsed and there where people grappling at the rubble to free the people who were stuck there. I sent people into cars to get first aid kits, blankets, towels, anything that can be used to administer field first aid.
The first person I treated was “margaret” she was badly injured but we stemmed the bleeding and put a sling on her arm, I found a lady to sit with her while I went into the cafe to try and help people out.
The next person to come out of the cafe was carried out on a door and I administered CPR in the middle of Colombo Street assisted by strangers. The efforts were futile, and as I looked at a police officer and told him there was no hope, he looked at me and nodded. We covered her and went onto assisting those we could save from the collapsed Tasty Tucker Cafe.
Many of us worked together to move the injured to the rear of the spotlight plaza and set up a makeshift field hospital and wait for transport to hospital. We had an abundance of blankets and warmth from Spotlight and other retailers, the pharmacy also provided valuable first aid equipment.
About 40 minutes had passed since the 6.3 and I had still not made contact with my husband or 2 of my 3 Children, I felt alone, scared and helpless. I approached some police officers and told them my background and asked where I could be of use now we had the injured of Sydenham sorted. I had to stay busy through fear, as I was not sure how my family were. I could no longer access my car, so the Officers took me into the CBD with them.
The four of us were dispatched to walk the CBD looking for trapped or injured people. We walked along the strip, Lichfield Street, Manchester Street, Cashel Street. We stood on the corner of Cashel and Manchester and looked up in disbelief at the Hotel Grand Chancellor. We rushed down Cashel Street to what was left of the CTV building. What we saw on that walk that afternoon will live with me forever, it was devastating.
I arrived in Latimer Square and advised of my skills I was immediately despatched to the PGC Building with another person, I rode his mountain bike through the battered streets. We arrived at PGC and began to set up a triage centre.
As the survivors came out one by one we assessed them, bandaged them, kept them warm and moved to the next person. It was a long, sad and eerie afternoon.
As a wife and mother I was still in the dark as to where my family were. I had been trying sporadically to text and call my husband and Children, to no avail. So I kept busy.
My cellphone rang in may back pocket, it was my Mother calling from Sydney. She could get through but I could not call my family here.
Finally at about 4.30 I tried again to call my daughter answered the phone. Her first words were, “we are all with dad in the car”, I could not believe that in the mayhem and chaos they were safe and together and uninjured, I cried tears of joy and relief.
I stayed at the PGC building quietly doing what I could until about 6.30pm when I decided it was time to be with my family, there were enough emergency services and medical crews there, so I farewelled the strangers I had worked with and began the long lonely walk home. I eventually put my thumb out and hitched a couple of rides to get closer to home and my family. It was about 8pm by the time we reunited.
No relief can ever measure up to that I felt when my family were all together again.