– Bridge at Fitzgerald Avenue

I had just left my husband at the Botanical Gardens and was driving home along Fitzgerald Avenue when the earthquake hit. I had hoped we would both go home together, as I had a strange feeling that day that I wanted to stay close to him, but brushing it aside we decided it made more sense if I just saw him at home. I was therefore on my own, just crossing the small bridge at Kilmore Street when the car started to shake violently.

Initially I thought it was a strong cross wind as the trees were also swaying, but as I started to see the road concertina in front of me, I realised it was another massive earthquake. By this time I had slammed on my brakes and I remember swearing constantly under my breath. Realising that the road had crumpled up behind me too, I got out of my car. There were three of us on the bridge, one girl screaming as she pointed to a crumbling building behind us, which she had been in minutes before. In a complete daze I asked someone on River Road if it was possible to go that way, but was told it was also blocked. Having paired up with the other girl, who was now a good deal calmer, we walked to the partially collapsed buildings along Fitzgerald to see if there was anything we could do. After some minutes it became clear that the men who were there helping did not need us, and to be truthful, in my dazed state I’m not sure I would have been much help anyway. We therefore decided to walk home as we both lived near Burwood Park and that walk turned out to be a very surreal journey. With the roads all flooded and people milling about, it made for difficult terrain. There was some comfort though, being in the suburbs, as it was easy to gauge the devastation in the CBD purely from the small corner we had seen; here at least buildings were standing and people, though shocked I’m sure, hadn’t yet learnt what had happened to their city. On finally reaching home I was disturbed to find my husband wasn’t there as I realised this meant he had to have been in the city. After speaking to some neighbours, who were pulling together in the beautiful spirit we were to see all over Christchurch, I sat myself on the kerb waiting for my husband. It was a very difficult wait, but to my huge relief, he turned up an hour later sweating and equally shocked from his experience in the city. Having been apart when the earthquake struck, I experienced separation anxiety for a long time after the event. I still shake with adrenaline when I think back to what happened that day. Recently someone spoke to me about Post Traumatic Stress and how I was still feeling the effects of it… strange thing was I never even thought I had PTS, but when you think of it, if an earthquake isn’t a traumatic event, then what is! My husband and I have now returned to the UK, but we have left our hearts in Christchurch. We have nothing but love and admiration for the strength and beauty of spirit we saw in the people there.

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