– Foster Terrace, Lyttelton, Canterbury, New Zealand

This is a transcript of an interview with Sarah van der Burch conducted shortly after the 4 September 2010 earthquake .

I live on Foster Terrace. We were asleep , but woke up and I just shot out of bed and yelled ‘earthquake’ and grabbed – my parents gave my husband and I an old Delft vase that has been in our family for a while, they gave us that as a wedding gift – it was the first thing I saw and I grabbed that and clutched it to my breast.

My husband started running around and I couldn’t quite understand what he was doing. He said “I’ll get the book case”, because we have a book case that I have been trying to get him to put an earthquake restraint on and he hadn’t done that. But then there was a loud ‘kabang!’ and he said “OK, forget the book case. Plan B.”

At that point I had run into my son’s room and said “Get up, earthquake!” We had lived on a boat for 4 years, so he thought it was the wind, and we were dragging anchor.

So all three of us stood under the door jamb, and my legs were shaking and I was going “Oh my God, oh my God!” and my husband was saying “Settle down!” I have been in a lot of earthquakes but this was by far the worst.

What I loved was looking out of the window at all the houses in town, and seeing all the little flickers of torchlight going around foundations, people all checking.

The aftershocks were unnerving. I have been in lots of earthquakes before, in California and in Alaska, but never with these kind of aftershocks. I’ve never been in anything that just keeps going, going, going.

On Tuesday night [10 days after the earthquake] when I heard they were tearing down the buildings in town I was in tears. I just was so so sad.

One thing I am surprised about is how much I love normal, mundane. You know, I was charged by a bear in Alaska, and I really thought I was done for – it was very funny at a distance, but in the middle of it it was “Oh my God” and I remember afterwards we flew back to the cabin where we were staying in and we sat up on the roof of the cabin and I can remember this incredible elation at having survived and it was overwhelming being able to breathe – so I didn’t feel that here, but I did feel a quiet lovely elation at being able to do the mundane and the normal. The beauty of the mundane, getting back to the same little things we do every day and how lovely that feels to me.

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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