– Salisbury Street, Christchurch Central, Canterbury, New Zealand

Sept. 4th. Woken by the 3 year old trying to get into my side of the bed. Looked at clock – 4.30 something. Decided he could stay in the big bed rather than taking him back to his. Snuggled down. About 5 secs later the room started shaking. Thought – it’s ok, we’re all in the big bed together. Then thought – gosh, thats a big one! Heard smashing glass from downstairs. Wondered if we should move to doorway when the bookcase behind the door fell over. Thought we could just stay we were. Then started looking round the room wondering what could harm us. Windows? Blinds down and curtains drawn. Chimney? If it fell it should miss us. Felt like the shaking went on forever. Listening to things fall over and smashing. Knowing that everything important was in the big bed and safe.

Finally it was over. Man got up and started to clear up the mess while I tried to get the boy back to sleep. It wasn’t gonna happen. We were so fortunate to still have power and water.

Then the sun rose and we discovered how really lucky we were. Friends down the road with small baby lived in a new town house. That was on a significant lean so had introduced themselves to their neighbours and bunked down in their lounge. Friends round the corner had rushed downstairs to their front hall. Half the wall down one side of the house had fallen off. They had no power or water. Didn’t even know the magnitude or location because of no transistor radio. So they had sat in the cold and dark, waiting thru the aftershocks for sunrise. I invited them back to mine for a cuppa, some warmth and the TV news.

Must admit it was a kind of novelty. There were a few broken buildings but everyone was ok.

I remember how sad I was when a fortnight later the coffee shop around the corner was red stickered and a fence put around it. The boy and I had been going there for years before going on our walks to the park, library, museum or catching the yellow bus to south city. We took flowers and a card to the fence and said goodbye to our coffee and marshmellows.

So strange to think we lived on borrowed time for 6 months.
Feb 22nd. We had just headed upstairs to watch a movie. Our afternoon quiet time. About 10 mins later the bed started shaking. And Oh Boy!! We just held onto each other and stayed put. There was no way I was heading to the door in case the bookcase fell over again. Windows? Curtains open – oh. Watched a paint tear appear. It was over a foot long. Watched the TV sway, until it fell over. Watched the printer disappear off the shelves. Remember saying ‘holy moly, that was a good one. Lets wander downstairs.’ Had to clear the landing and stairs. As we went thru the back door the boy asked what the dust was. I said it was fog. Not realising it was our city that floated around us.

Found some neighbours and had a group cuddle. Remember seeing my man appear on the back door step. He worked on the other side of the fence. We made eye contact while we clocked we were all ok. Then he raced inside, checked the brand new big TV, (it was fine) and raced back to work.

I remember the noise after. It started with car alarms. Then the ambulance, fire and police sirens. The honking horns that fire engines have.

I remember standing on Salisbury St. Groups of upset people coming out of the buildings around us. A guy from work paused long enough to say the spire had fallen off the cathedral. He was trying to get home before the roads were blocked.

Some other neighbours made it back to the flats looking very white. Realised later that they were covered in dust. Took me months to work out why they were so upset. They had been in the city doing lunch. They packed the car with essentials and headed out of town.

Didn’t take long for the road to be a traffic jam. Thousands of upset people walking home. The noise was overwhelming.

A road block was set up on Durham St so emergency services could get thru.

Eventually all was quiet.

Apart from sirens.

And the rumble of aftershocks.

10 months later we still miss our library, museum and Victoria park. South city is open but no more yellow bus. In a block of 14, 8 flats were yellow stickered. We miss our neighbours. The preschool was in the red zone. The boy misses his friends.

We’ve now moved to the suburbs. Can see the new preschool from the letterbox.

And get edgy when we haven’t had a decent aftershock for a few days…

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