– Addington, Canterbury, New Zealand

I had flown to Christchurch from Auckland (where I have lived the past 4 years) on 3rd February to await the birth of my first grandchild, a boy and first child for my daughter and her husband. By 22 February, he was already 10 days overdue and I had moved my plane ticket home to Auckland forward twice already as I wished to remain in Christchurch for his birth.

My daughter Jessica and her husband Hamish were driving to Christchurch Women’s Hospital to have their baby induced when the 6.3 earthquake struck the city. They managed to get to Christchurch Women’s hospital but it was a scene of panic and confusion including a toddler being triaged on the floor on the foyer of Christchurch Women’s. It seems he had some masonry or similar fall on him. I don’t know how he fared :-/

Meanwhile, I was back at Jess and Hamish’s townhouse – they own the rear townhouse of a block of 6 and I got in to Jess’s car outside their garage a minute before the earthquake hit. I had begun to back out in to the main area of the asphalt driveway when the car started to lurch violently backwards and forwards and then side to side and ridiculously I just thought maybe I had the handbrake on and had my foot too far down on the accelerator. At this point I saw the neighbour’s car which was parked right next to Jess’s come closer and closer but it was Jess’s car being bounced (with me in it) towards it then bounced back again. My heart was racing and i felt sick with confusion. I looked up at the second storey of the townhouses and they were twisting side to side and swaying backwards and forwards. I then looked at the ashphalt driveway and it was just like waves of licquorice straps… it was only then I realised it was an earthquake – the car tyres turning in to bouncing balls.

I waited until the worst of the movement had abated but the aftershocks were hell scary. I got out of the car not knowing where to go and stood in the middle of the driveway, tried to phone my daughter and son in law but couldn’t get through. Phoned my partner in Auckland who told me to get back to the house and stand in the porchway. Heart pounding and feeling sick and scared witless of further quakes I opened their door: to find this

Only a few minutes earlier, I had been sitting on the sofa by the baby bouncer and would have had the 75 litre aquarium smash on me if I was still there. Thank god I had decided to pop to my parents house instead and was sitting in the car at least. I was standing transfixed not knowing what to do… a text came through from Jess stating that she and Hamish were on their way home… obviously no inductions for babies would be done that day! I started to receive texts from family members – aunt and uncle’s house in Cashmere was uninhabitable… most the bricks fell off it and inside damaged but they were fine. Couldn’t get through to my elderly parents, they had cell phones but don’t text and their phone batteries were flat. Their landline was not analog but cordless and relied on power (it was 8 hours before we knew they were ok). There was no power or water.

I phoned my partner in Auckland again as just a voice to hear and a strong aftershock hit. I could hear the roar first and then it hit, i just screamed – it was so terrifying but at least he was on the phone with me – the first time he’s heard an earthquake over the phone!

Jess and Hamish got home 30 minutes later. What is normally around a 10 minute trip took 40 minutes to their house in Addington. Poor Jess, coming home to such a mess and still heavily pregnant. We got stuck in and cleaned it up but of course the carpet sopped up the 75 litres of water and although we sponged as much we could it was impossible getting much more than 3 litres of it in a bucket (it dried out in the following week with dehumidifier on – they got power back on 9 hours later) and not to mention the tiny shards of glass throughout the living area [now replaced with new carpet].

A massive aftershock hit as we were trying to clean it all up and Jess and i were thrown against her lounge wall. We just hugged each other terrified for the time it happened. Their bedroom was also a mess with chest of drawers and television tipped up and broken… but they got off lightly – couple of cracks in the exterior cladding of house and their patio concrete cracked.

We still had not heard from my brother (who worked for one of the essential services) and his wife. Down the track it transpired that he was just outside the road tunnel working. He looked up to see the boulders and rocks falling down in to Heathcote Valley. His wife was at the Palms Mall and terrifyingly had glass falling down around her and her daughter – my niece – who pushed her out of the way when a large shard falling towards her which ended up slicing the leg of a woman near her. (Again makes me thankful I was sitting in the car even if it was bouncing around!) I so feel for my brother who had to help clear a body in a 4wd vehicle from outside his work … nothing was higher than the wheels and other ghastly sights.

My parents were physically fine. My ex husband managed to get to their house in his 4wd vehicle and check on them. Jess and I went early the next morning to attempt to get to their street in Avondale – one of the severest hit areas (and since, they have been designated in the red zone). It was such a damn scary drive and i was scared if we stayed out too long it would be our luck she came in to labour and couldn’t get to hospital! We had to park in Avondale Road – the roads had deep potholes and liquefaction was everywhere. We carefully walked through all the mud and water to my parents house. They had sat up scared all night in the kitchenette. (Their house was severely damaged in the September 4th earthquake and now of course has sustained much more damage.)

Jess heard from her midwife on the Thursday afternoon following the quake, 24th and had a couple of hours only to prepare for a second chance at inducing Joseph. We went up to Christchurch Women’s hospital that night, but had to go back to hospital at 7.30am the next day to get things really going – gorgeous little Joseph David MCBREARTY, 8 pound 6 ounces and 55 cm was born 25 February 2011 by emergency caesarian and i became a ‘Grammy’. He was a media star not long after birth!! – see Baby Joseph a light among earthquake chaos

For the couple of weeks following Joseph’s birth, I stayed with my elderly parents in Avondale to ensure they were fine. It was two weeks all up after the quake before they got power and water back on to their house – they were in one of the hardest hit areas. The house that i still own in Wainoni also received further damage to the previous damage in the Boxing Day quake. A couple of quake epicentres were only metres away, but even though cracks had opened up the driveway and backyard and the house had some tiles shake loose, foundation and pile damage, fence, wall & ceiling damage – the house is structually sound. My employer was exceedingly understanding during this horrendous time and allowed me the precious time with my family in Christchurch to ensure not only that they are doing ok but that i also had the time for my own mental health to feel better about returning to Auckland and leaving them. I am sincerely indebted. Being the family historian/genealogist, I have spent the time since the quakes crying for what my home town has lost, what my family history has lost or had damaged:

  • My parents married in St Pauls Presbyterian Church, Cashel St in 1959. It has gone.
  • My Great grandparents married in the Knox Church in 1910 – now a shell.
  • Great great aunts & uncles were baptised at St Luke’s, Manchester street in the 1800’s – demolished no doubt.
  • My GGG Grandparents are buried at St Peter’s, Riccarton – some damage.
  • My aunt & uncle married in the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament & i was bridesmaid in 1978 – it’s now crippled and now uncertain future.

Our local cemeteries have been badly damaged: Linwood; Barbadoes Street; Bromley – I have ancestors lying in all of these and am a volunteer researcher for “The Friends of Linwood Cemetery”.

I have felt honoured and priviledged to have been part of the incredible outpouring of community not just local but New Zealand wide. I’ve cried for the loss of New Zealanders and internationals alike – i, like many others know of people that have have loved ones and friends die. My gratitude and deep appreciation go out to all those who have helped in search and rescue and keeping us and property feeling secure and safe; bringing us power and water not just back to homes but ensuring a good supply is accessible at points around the city. To people like Tim Baker, City Councillor – salt of the earth and someone who has embraced his local community of Aranui by providing a clothes washing service [who has also written in depth about the heritage and history of the local area and is also a local land agent] and whom was on the 40th Reunion Committee of Aranui High School in 2000 alongside myself. The wonderful uplifting people from Timaru who helped my son and myself shovel the silt from my parents back yard and the people from student army, Coalgate and Loburn who helped shovel out their driveway, words are just not enough but thank you so so soooo very much from the depths of my heart. The difference it made to my parents just to see the bulk of it gone was something special.

To my awesome 25 year old son who lives in South Canterbury THANK YOU for thinking of his grandparents (my parents) and making up the lovely sandwiches, providing another gas cooker and containers of water, travelling to help me move the silt then after that travelling to Lincoln later that night to see your newborn nephew then having to drive all the way back home down South. A very special person.

I’d like to mention my fabulous cousin Clare :) xx who also had a harrowing time during all this due to the fact she lives right atop of Lyttelton and has been evacuated and returned to her home several times due to rock falls and also having to support her parents through all this when their own home in Cashmere was severely damaged has instigated the Trust for children with head injuries in the name of 8 month old Jayden Harris who died in the quake after a television fell on him.

At time of writing (31 July 2011) I am coping mostly ok although sorting through some stressing issues with my insurance company and a real estate company, my former property manager who have not made my life easy. I am at the Ombudsman/media stage with them. I have really down moments and i have high moments. I have ‘quake brain’ at work but they understand – and that’s the main thing :o) – and i’m in Auckland! I have baby Joseph to dote over who is now 5 months, has 2 teeth and is eating solids

I am a born and bred Cantabrian always will be. To the people of the badly hit areas of Christchurch … I feel for you, those aftershocks are so disconcerting and sickening – I hope you get some peace soon and some security in your life. Especially my special special family & extended family xxxx

Tell your story Report this story

Report this Story as Inappropriate

If you've noticed any inappropriate content in this story or feel that the story contains privacy violations, please fill out the form below.

We'll review your report and remove information that is in violation of our policies.

We'll only use your email address to let you know about the result of your report.