– Linwood, Christchurch

The February 22, 6.3 earthquake struck while I was at a social function at a venue opposite the AMI Stadium. I left there for my homeward journey with my friend who was driving, while I was trying to navigate with the help of a crumpled road map. It was a perilous journey through bumper-to-bumper traffic, flooded streets and piles of rubble. We found ourselves blocked at every turn, resulting in our having to drive far to the east of the city centre. The streets were lined with dazed residents. 


An aftershock rocked our car and overhead wires shook. It was all too much for me and I needed to go to the toilet. “Please stop!” I bleated to my friend. She drew to the side of the road. Some Higher Power must have been listening. Just nearby was a building site with a portaloo at the entrance. I left the car and approached it, trying to keep my dignity in the face of curious onlookers. But I was out of luck. There was no way I could access the portaloo because there was a gaping hole in the ground right in front of it.

But rescue came. A kindly builder, seeing my plight, picked up a plank of wood and laid it over the hole, opened the door and, with the grace of Sir Walter Raleigh, ushered me into the foul interior.

My dignity was in shreds but at least I lasted the four-hour journey home and on reflection, regarded the whole incident as one of a few lighter moments in the midst of a tragic day.

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