– Papanui, Canterbury, New Zealand

The school kids were in the field behind the fence, lunchtime had just started. Bubs had just had her lunch and was following me around the house. I was wrestling with the vacuum lead and I noticed that our cat had disappeared from his sunspot outside. I thought nothing of it as that’s his usual response to seeing the vacuum cleaner.

20 minutes later (with bubs in tow) I tried to kick the vacuum off with my toe and lost my balance. The vacuum turned off by itself and I thought ‘I must be really tired!!’

I tried to regain my balance and realised it wasn’t me that was knocking about, it was our house. I picked up bubs and got under the bedroom door which was our usual quake spot. The quake was loud and knocked things off shelves, opened cupboards, widened cracks etc. It set fear in my heart.

As soon as it stopped I bolted with bubs to where our old analogue phone is stored and ran back to plug it in. I knew our power had gone out because of the vacuum cleaner and my cell was low too. Between aftershocks I rang hubby at work who was okay and was helping his injured co-workers then coming straight home. It took him almost 3 hours due to panicked traffic. I rang our families and our friends, I can’t recall all the numbers I rang while holding bubs who didn’t want to be held. I had to change her nappy twice in the doorway!

One of the scariest moments was hearing the squealing of brakes out on the street and the screaming and yelling of parents as they ran to collect their children from the school. At the same time, it made me feel safe because Bubs and I weren’t alone in this madness. But once they had all gone and the street was quiet again, that unnerving feeling started up.

By 2.45pm and hubby still hadn’t made it I did a dash around the house and gathered what we’d need, loaded up Bub’s pram and decided to get to our next-door neighbour. Her house is newer than ours and thought it’d be safer. As soon as I took one step with the pram we had a massive aftershock (5.5) which toppled the pram. I dragged Bubs and the pram back into the house and we waited in the doorway until hubby got home. Hours went by where the phone lines were down and we didn’t know how a lot of people were.

We decided to go next-door and were welcomed warmly. We sat around the battery powered radio listening to the one station that we could find…the other CHCH stations seemed to be out of order. Thankfully our lovely neighbour cooks with gas and we were able to eat dinner but no-one had running water, functioning loos, phone, power etc so we were definitely back to basics.

Later that evening, when the rain started, our saviours arrived and invited us to stay the night where they had everything we did not. We charged our cells, had more hot food and for the first time, saw the chaos as everyone else did on TV. What a frightening experience. Just seeing what had occurred 10 minutes from our house almost brought us to our knees. I know that we were lucky, lucky that we were not in the CBD or East of the City. So many were not lucky.

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