The first earthquake, in September, shocked us all. One moment, we were happy, had plans and our futures planned out – the next, it was ripped from us in one shaking motion in the early hours of the morning. I’ll never forget waking up with my boyfriend holding onto me and roaring in my ears as I watched my books and dvd’s flung to the floor by an unseen force. My boyfriend, being from Wellington said ‘Calm down, it’s just a little earthquake.’ but as it grew strength, even he leapt from the bed and joined me under the doorframe.
Afterwards, the house was full of confusion and uncertainty.
We were the sort of family that didn’t have a plan in case of an emergency. We all huddled under our big doorframe, clinging each other and listening to the radio, with only torches for light.
Then we heard a man on the radio. ‘There’s water up to our knees, we’re in Brighton-’
Of course, we feared the worst – a Tsunami. Later we learnt that was the first stages of liquifaction.
After some time, we got used to the aftershocks, and confusion turned to complete knowledge of all things geological. Everybody in Christchurch knew the words ‘Liquifaction, earthquake, aftershock, richter’ etc, and used them on a daily basis.
Apart from the odd larger aftershock, things were slowly beginning to return to normal, buses resumed, shops reopened, cracks were repaired.
And then February 22nd rolled along.
I remember parts of the day perfectly, and others I can only guess at.
I had just got a job at a local supermarket in Parklands, and I was due to sign my contract that day. My sister and mother both were meant to be on Bealey ave, but by some amazing stroke of luck, both of their alarms had failed to wake them. So my sister was getting ready to bus into town, and my mother was in the kitchen on the phone.
At 12:45 I was in bed, being lazy and checking my Facebook on the computer. I was about to get up and shower, when suddenly my monitor went black. I called out to mum and was about to say ‘Power’s gone out!’ and then my monitor flew forward onto the ground and everything turned into rubber. The walls flung backwards and forwards and I remember seeing my curtains flying. I knew instantly this was worse than September, so I didn’t bother with the doorframe. I forced myself into the hall and attempted to get outside.
This part is hazy, I might have hit my head – but I remember being thrown back and forwards into walls and a heater. Finally, I got to the front door and my mum almost got there but slipped over.
I always assumed if I was in a life or death situation I would save myself, but I shocked myself at that moment by running back into the house and pulling mum out with me. We held each other outside, crying, until it stopped. My sister came out afterwards.
The hours after the earthquake were almost as bad as the quake itself. My boyfriend and dad were working in the city, and as the phone lines were down, I didn’t know if they were okay. Then my neighbour came home, white as a ghost, and said that their were dead bodies lying in the streets, and that the cathedral had all but collapsed.
We just sat on the side of the road, crying. All we could hear were yelling, alarms going, cars racing past and people running around. After a while, the liquifaction got worse and cars were just abandoned. My stepmother and dad walked to our house in bare feet, as the roads surrounding Broadhaven ave were covered in silt and mud.
Four and a half hours after the earthquake, my boyfriend made it home – he had been working on Moorhouse and almost got crushed. His car had mud marks up to the windows from driving through Aranui.
The days afterwards were hard, waiting to hear from friends and family to make sure they were safe, boiling all our water and camping in our own backyard.
My life plan was based in Christchurch, I wanted to study there, work and raise my children in the city. I had been in love with Christchurch ever since I was a little girl. Now the city is all but gone.
Everyone in Christchurch is so strong, and brave and amazing. The earthquakes have been such a terrible, life-changing event. Keep going Chch <3