– Halkett Road, West Melton, Canterbury, New Zealand

In retrospect I can hardly decide what came first to my mind that morning when the 7.1 earthquake hit our home. All my senses were triggered at once by the magnitude of the event. The noise, the groaning, the shocks and jolts, things shattering to pieces, water rushing down the ceilings and the walls. A disaster unfolding. I found myself lying on the floor face down, a meter or so away from the bed. Awakening to sheer havoc, totally disoriented. Did I pass out for a moment? I don’t know, I can’t remember. A black eye and bruised and sore legs seem to indicate I was jolted out of bed. The thought ran through my mind that if this was the end I might as well resign to it. Actually I didn’t care. What I do remember is that Sarah, my wife, was pulling at my shoulder, shouting, “…get up….get up…..we have to get out of here!” With her help I scrambled to my feet, holding on to each other; it was practically impossible to move about because everything was shacking and jolting. Like a cakewalk. No light either, groping in the dark for the door. We stumbled into the hallway. Heard the rush of water coming from the ceilings above, running down along the walls; it had us thinking that the house was about to collapse. We tried to open the door to the dining area and the kitchen, but it wouldn’t move at first. It was blocked with falling debris. Pumped up with adrenaline and desperate, feeling we were running out of time, we pushed again. The door finally moved, at the same time we sensed that we had entered a space in total chaos. Glass falling to pieces, crockery breaking, bricks coming loose, water, food. For our safety we switched off the power at the mains switchboard and crawled under the dining table, but that didn’t feel safe. We found ourselves sort of caught in the middle, realizing we desperately needed shoes and some cover to stay warm. Sarah decided to force her way back to our bedroom. She came back in a dash with shoes and sweaters. The house kept swaying and rocking as the jolts hit our house bottom up, we knew instantly it was best for us to get out of the house as soon as possible. So we scrambled for the laundry glass cracking under our feet, through our therapy offices, into the garage. There we managed to open one of the garage doors and dragged our two emergency/ shelter boxes from under the rubble, outside. They would help us to survive in case we had to stay in the open. As we turned around to look at our house we saw in the light of early morning parts of the chimney crumble on to the roof. We then decided to drive the car out of the garage and sit in it for some warmth and wait for sunrise. It was pretty frosty that morning. Sight of seeing our home shake and rock with each quake is a heartbreaking experience. We held each other’s hand. We were alive. And that was all that mattered for the moment.

Herman Meijburg
September 15th, 2010

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