– Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

In 1987, I was working for AMP as an insurance and superannuation sales person. I was based in the building now known as Ernst & Young, but then was known as Avon View. When work began on the building diagonally opposite our building (144 Kilmore St, now Dept of Labour etc), we had to endure weeks of the pounding of concrete piles being driven into the soil. After a while, I bumped into one of the engineers from that worksite, who told me that the area was a major problem for liquifaction, and that the piles were being driven to ensure that the new building was not a quake risk. He then went on to assure me that the building I was in was not a risk, as he knew it was well-built. He then nodded to the building beside mine and said, “be glad you are not in that piece of sh*t, it is rubbish that was built with no knowledge of the sub-strata.” The building he referred to was later known as the PGC building. When I heard it had collapsed in the earthquake, I remembered that 1987 conversation with startling clarity. And cried.

I, like others had got on with my life, never giving that building another thought. But now I think about it regularly. Was I, like so many others, in my silence somehow complicit in the building’s failure?

I’ll never know. But I wish I did.

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