– Fendalton, Canterbury, New Zealand

It is Sunday June 12th and I am uneasy…. Tomorrow I will leave Christchurch; my husband will look after our 5 year old and 14 month old while I travel to Nelson and Blenheim for 3 days for work.

I can’t tell you why I am uneasy – is it because it is a month since our last “over 5.0 mag” aftershock, is it because this is the first time since Feb 22nd I have left my family?... I just know I am on edge; my ears straining at each sound, jumping when neighbours slam car doors or garages and I develop a morbid fascination with Geonet again checking it constantly.

Around 4pm my husband comments to me that he too is uneasy and “thinks we are in for another big one”. I snap at him not wanting to put the words “out there” and then admit to my own uneasiness so we put a plan in place for him to get to the children at School and Daycare if something should happen while I am away.

Monday June 13th and at 7:45am I am on my way to Nelson; keen to get there, get the job done and back home again.

I arrive in Motueka around 12:45pm with my first appointment at 1pm and I quickly make some phone calls then check Geonet again. All is quiet… only some little ones….

I get to the door of my appointment and realise I have left my cell in the car. I go back to get it and put it in my pocket.

Inside I am greeted by the salon owner and we sit down. For some reason my hand goes to my pocket and I pull out my phone and place it beside me, something I never do.

She asks me if I am expecting a call and apparently (I am told later) I say “No” but nod my head as if to say “Yes”.

Within 3 minutes it rings and I glance at the number – it is my husband calling- so I politely ask if it is possible to take the call.

“We’ve just had a fu*ken big one!” He yells down the phone. My stomach drops to the floor; I can feel all the blood drain from my body and all the hairs rise up on my skin. The owner has obviously heard his voice and her face turns to concern as I croak out the words “How big?” in panic.

He thinks it is around a 5.5-5.8 magnitude and my heart turns to stone as I try to comprehend the implications, timelines and how far away I am from him and my babies.

I hang up and frantically dial Daycare – I know it is a new building and I am sure they will be ok but . . . PHEW! Apparently he has slept through it. My heart slows down slightly as I hear the news while another part of me registers the soft click of a text message coming through.

“All kids are OK but in the interests of safety we ask you to collect your child from school”

My husband tells me he will pick our 5 year old up… But the message really undoes me… If school is evacuating then it is definitely a big one and I am going home! Forget work; I can’t concentrate, my mind is spinning and all I want is to see my husband and babies. I know that will be it for the day… there will be smaller aftershocks after this and with earthquakes and nearly ten months of subsequent aftershocks I know how terrifying, frightening and nerve shattering it is to be in one but today for me this is much worse – being so far away from my family and not being able to see they are safe with my own eyes is threatening to undo me and I try to remain calm and think rationally.

I leave the salon and head to the petrol station, kicking myself for wasting precious time getting back on the road. The attendant tells me there has just been another big quake in Christchurch and my voice wobbles as I tell him I have just driven up this morning and am turning around to drive back again to get to my family.

As I go to pay, grabbing a drink and sandwich he takes my mobilcard but declines money for the food and tells me to drive safely.

I drive through Wakefield and suddenly remember my accommodation so I call them apologising for the inconvenience of cancelling at such short notice. They tell me not to worry, they will see me next time adding that I am the fifth person to cancel in the last half hour as people rush back to Christchurch which leads me to thinking how the quakes are affecting people and businesses all over New Zealand in many ways.

It is the longest drive of my life especially when there is no coverage through the Lewis Pass for me to check what is happening on my iPad or cell and as I drive into Murchison I break road laws and take another call from my husband…. “We’ve just had an even bigger one – probably as big as Feb!!!!”

I scream down the phone at him to go and pick up our 14 month old “NOW!” and am crying telling him I am getting there as fast as I can.

I run out of cell coverage again and try to find a radio station but get only static.

My heart is hammering wildly in my mouth; I just want to get home and have to make myself slow down as time and time again the speedo on my car jumps above 130kph.

I pray that no-one has been injured or killed again and wonder just how much more Christchurch and it’s people can take

“Logically” we knew after a 7.1 on September 4th that there would be aftershocks but we all thought that “logically” it couldn’t get worse … then Feb 22nd hit with the vengeance of a 6.3 and life changed in Christchurch for us all forever.

Now “illogically” we have had a major aftershock followed just an hour and a half later with an even bigger aftershock – everything that your brain “logically” tells you won’t/shouldn’t happen just has.

At Amberley I stop to refuel unsure if there is power on in Christchurch or shops open. The service station is really busy and I grab bread, milk and water and am unsettled again as I realise that most of the people are obviously from Christchurch – cars are filled with people, sleeping bags, animals and I notice liquefaction mud/sand half way up jeans, bare legs and cars.

I drive into Christchurch down the Main North Road – it all looks so peaceful and normal – until I glance in shop windows and notice posters hanging lopsidedly; mannequins fallen over, broken windows (again) and shelves emptied of stock onto the floor.

There is queue after queue outside fish and chips shops and at the Papanui/Harewood Road intersection I notice a set of shops already broken from Feb are far worse off then what they were this morning.

I skid to a halt at home and run inside to my family. I give them all a big hug but try to act “normally” so as not to unsettle further my 5 year old.

He tells me he was playing outside at lunchtime when the first one hit at school and how they all ran to the centre court to find their teacher and how he waited for Daddy to pick him up.

I can only be grateful once again that this time there are no casualties but mourn once again the further loss of homes, buildings and my once beautiful city under the strength of Mother Nature’s temper.

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