– Bealey Avenue, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

This is a transcript of an interview with Kerry Grant Donnelly conducted shortly after the 22 February 2011 earthquake .

My name is Kerry Grant Donnelly, age is 48. I was in a Toyota Camri cab on Bealey Ave, picking up my next fare, which was at Presbyterian Support and then the road turned to water. The car started to bounce like a cork in the bath and I was quite lucky because with 4 rubber wheels it bounced. It was like being a frog, being chucked around. I didn’t try to drive I just held the car where it was and let the earth do what it was doing. I watched the trees on Bealey Ave being thrown to the ground and then get up again and the lamp posts did the same thing. I didn’t worry about the trees, I worried about the lamp posts. And then Knox Church, right in front of me, just 20 meters away from me came straight down onto the street. So there was rubble and cars and whatever else was happening.

This is what I would like to ask people: Where were you 20 minutes before the quake and aren’t you lucky you weren’t there? 20 minutes before that I was in Northlands Mall with about 4000 other people, at lunchtime it would have been bedlam – 1000s of people all panicking at the same time. I met a few people since who had been in there and they said it was terrifying, people trampling over each other, ceilings falling down, just really scary!

It didn’t bother me as much as the aftershocks we had since. Because I pulled into my last fare, she had a broken ankle already, she was on a crutch. She worked at Presbyterian support. The Presbyterian support people came out of the building and I basically became an honorary staff member. I helped out. I opened my cab and turned on the radio, so people could hear what was going on. There were lots of people coming up the street, relatives and friends of people at Presbyterian Support – one girl was completely upset and I said “Come here” and I hugged her until someone turned up with a blanket and found her Mum. So I tried to be a general supporter in that situation. So I stayed with that woman for three and a half hours because she couldn’t walk out. Her friends were driving out and a lot of people were walking to Hagley park, and eventually I said “Ann, shall we try to get you home? And she said “All right. Are you really going to take me home?” and I said “Absolutely, you are my last fare of the day, after that I will take my car back to work and it should all be sorted. ’

I used my intuition to find Stanmore Road because it meets with the river at a right angle. We went through side streets. I was proud of myself, proud of how I handled it.

I had three Icelandic flatmates staying with me at the time: a six year old boy, a 44 year old woman and a 28 year old woman. The older woman was here, the little boy was at the Lyttelton pool and got thrown in the water through the quake, shook him straight into the water and scared him, and the younger woman was at the hospital, she was Ok, but she got to see what it was like in a national disaster.

I got home here as fast as I could, went Dyers road, I knew the tunnel would be shut. First I went to see my Mum. She was OK, she was making chutney,- she had not connected to what was happening at all.

Got home, gave my flatmate a big hug when I came in, tried to comfort her as much as I could “It was so scary” she said.

They left on Saturday, and then my health packed up. Fatigue, chronic fatigue, flus, headache, migraines. It was all stress related, because my health was good before that. I just kept going, I went and got water up at Winchester Street at the Rec centre to make sure they had water, I rigged up a solar shower in the bathroom, so they could have hot showers, and tried to look after them as much as I could. I was already used to it from September. In September I was awake, under that door way, the whole house was shaking and I rode it out. So I had already gone through it, but they hadn’t. And they thought what the hell was going on so, so looked after them, but then I crashed.

But we had a good party on the Grassy first. Even though my health crashed I had to fight my way back from there. I even changed my job because of it.

Christchurch, or the more outlying areas of Christchurch had slang names like ‘The city of the Damned.’ because there are a certain amount of murders to do with prostitution. This was pre-earthquake. But this Christchurch city is not like that. What happened after September is that the city stood up and everybody said- wow, look at those people. I am very proud of the people of Christchurch and Lyttelton, the way they stuck together. Lyttelton got stronger glued together- it’s like super glue now, really linked in, great.

I also have allowed myself to be more vulnerable. I will say “I don’t want to be alone.” I have texted people saying “I don’t want to be alone tonight, what are you doing? Can I come over?” and I have offered it back. I’d say “Do you want to come over, have a coffee, have a talk.“ So I am not over it , but l am learning to live within it.

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.

Tell your story Report this story

Report this Story as Inappropriate

If you've noticed any inappropriate content in this story or feel that the story contains privacy violations, please fill out the form below.

We'll review your report and remove information that is in violation of our policies.

We'll only use your email address to let you know about the result of your report.