– Days Road, Lyttelton, Canterbury, New Zealand

This is a transcript of an interview with Lottie Harris conducted shortly after the 4 September 2010 earthquake .

My name is Lottie Harris, I am 32 and I live with my husband and our 10 month old baby. On the day the earthquake happened it was the day we were moving house. We were in a rental house at 4 Days Road in Lyttelton. The house was built in the 1860s , it is a little old uninsulated tin roof cottage and belonged to Mr. Day of Days Road.

I had been feeding Olive in the night and thought “Oh, maybe I’ll get up and crack on with the packing.” But I looked at the clock and I thought- “Oh, it’s 4.30, maybe its a bit early, I’ll try and go back to bed. “ and lay down.

In the bedroom there is a kind of walk-in wardrobe and it’s got a very creaky door and our ginger cat Bailey tries to get in there, he can smell mice or something and makes the door creak. So I thought ‘Oh no, Bailey has followed me into the bedroom, cause he’s not allowed in there. So I said “Bailey, will you stop it.” cause there was this ‘creak, creak ’ noise and then I said “Hang on, thats’ a bit more than Bailey… and I said “Tim, earthquake”, and I grabbed Olive who luckily sleeps in the same room than us in our bed. So I picked her up and we stood in the doorway. And my legs were like jelly, I could barely stand, I was terrified. It was my first ever earthquake of any sort [Lottie is English, and has only lived in NZ 3 years]. I had no idea whether the whole house was going to fall down or how bad it was.

So we stood there for a while and it stopped shaking and then I said “I think we should go outside, I think we’re meant to go outside.” So I dragged Tim outside and then we stood there for a while. Tim was completely naked holding onto Olive and he was like “Can I at least go and put some clothes on please.” We were laughing and went inside and didn’t really know what to do.

There were some big aftershakes and eventually that calmed down and we didn’t know what to make of it. One amazing thing was the stars, there was no light in the whole of Christchurch and it was just beautiful.

Because we were moving that day we had nothing on our shelves, cause it was all in boxes, so nothing broke. We also had no torch, no candles, nothing – we were completely in the dark. We managed to rummage around with our mobile phone and found one tea light and a box of matches.

We went back to bed and about 3 minutes later our mobile went from the UK and it was my friend Ailsa from the UK saying that there was a big earthquake, obviously from the internet. So then we phoned my Mum and my parents and she read the news which said that there was massive damage in Christchurch, and that was the first time we actually realised that it was bad. We had nothing to gauge it against. I mean it felt bad but I thought maybe I was being a wimp!

Then we got messages from our little network of friends with babies, checking in everyone was all right. And our house was freezing, cause it only has a heat pump and there was snow on all the hills. So we went down to Jodi and Josh’s on Exeter Street and they had a roaring fire and cooked porridge on the top of their stove and tea and toast. We toasted bread in the log fire. We all got warm there, cause obviously with a baby…our house was virtually as cold inside as outside.

And then Tim grabbed Josh, they got Bertie the truck and we started moving house! We had 5 people helping us move and 6 people helping us clean the rental, people lent us stuff – it was amazing – in all we had 70 hours of people’s time to move house and 17 different people, all organised through the Timebank, so that was amazing.

Tim my husband is an arborist and he was working in Kaiapoi, and he was saying that the liquefaction shook those big pinetrees literally out of the ground – the roots came out and then the trees fell over.

On one of the big aftershocks, the one where the epicenter was under Lyttelton, I was skyping my mother in England. She just saw on her computer that the whole of our room moved and me scream and grab Olive and then the power cut out and it said on her screen ‘Call terminated ’ . My poor Mum! So I jumped under the door way, scrabbled for my mobile phone and rang her, and she was absolutely beside herself.

Otherwise with the aftershocks everytime you jump. But of course you know it’s not going to be as bad as the big one.

This transcript is from one of a series of interviews carried out by Bettina Evans of Project Lyttelton . We are very grateful to Bettina and the interviewees for allowing their interview transcripts to be posted on QuakeStories.

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