– Cashel Street, Christchurch Central, Canterbury, New Zealand

We walked through the already open doors of the bus exchange and out onto the busy street. The smell of bus fumes filled my nostrils and I zipped up my hoodie to keep out the cold.

People shoved past us and buses zoomed off. The streets were packed with teenagers in school uniforms and adults out on a lunch break; just like any ordinary day.

“How about we go into this shop?” Grace asked. “I’ve always wanted to go in!” She pointed towards Fanica, a Hello Kitty type shop.

The others followed her in, while I trudged behind. I was feeling a bit off and didn’t really want to be in town.

We walked through the smooth sliding doors which welcomed us to a bright and happy shop full of stuffed toys of Japanese characters.

I walked round the shop, eyeing up every little detail, every little toy. The shop was packed full of teenage girls, like sardines in a can.

Then suddenly the lights flicked off and my whole world smashed into little pieces. Walls started to shake violently and the floor knocked me off my feet. I fell to the ground, landing on something. My stomach turned and I wanted to vomit. The noise of everything shaking was unbearable. It was like a billion trains roaring past one after another. My eyes darted around and I watched as years of collected dust spat out from underneath Ballentynes and showered everyone in sight. Hello Kittys flew across the room and glass shelves shattered into millions of little tiny pieces. I saw people outside bent over in a turtle shape on the ground, covering their necks and their heads from flying bricks. I wanted to do the same, but I couldn’t move. I was paralysed with fear.

I wanted it to be over. I wanted my Mum, my Dad and even my brothers.

My mind was a jungle of a million thoughts, all tangled together.

I never have, nor do I doubt that I’ll ever be as scared as I was in those 24 seconds.

Then it stopped. Just like that it was over; but the worst had just begun.

My world came slowly to a stand still. There was silence for a second. The whole city was quiet.

Then the noise began. Screams, car alarms and the cries of help from people trapped. I got up to my feet and found my ground. I ran out of the shop; leaving my friends and hoping they would follow. Everyone on the street huddled together away from the buildings and I joined them. I turned around and saw my friends behind me. Tears had filled their eyes and were rolling down their cheeks like little bowling balls. I wanted to cry like them, but I knew I had to be strong for the long day ahead.

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