– Dublin Street, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

4 September 2010:
I lived in the central city close to Victoria Street. When the quake struck, my partner went to rescue our baby Sabrina. He stood with her in the doorway, and I ended up there too but have no recollection of how I got there. The bookshelves had fallen across the bed but missed me since I’m so short.

A few objects fell down in the house, but the kitchen was almost untouched, except for a container of oil which left a big oil slick on the floor.

After the initial drama of getting out of the house we made contact with their neighbours in the other three flats. When we had calmed a bit, we began to venture around the neighbourhood. Around the corner, the Daily Bagel building had collapsed on to the street.

We never lost power and were without water for only a short time. The flat became a gathering point for friends who came to charge phones and use the internet. The day turned into a strange social event with people sitting outside drinking beer, and stiff whiskies from our neighbour Kevin.

I have no recollection of how the quake sounded, even thought the chimney had come down outside our bedroom. Rosary House next door had a very large water tank and for a while afterwards all I could hear was a really loud, strange, slosh, slosh, slosh.

That day and the next day, we gathered extra batteries and torches, secured bookshelves and tidied up the house. Having our wee girl was a distraction – normal things like feeding her needed to go on. Even though you are fearful for your child, they are a way of not thinking about the bad things. Sabrina loved the distraction and interest of lots of people around.

I was quick to get in touch with Mum, who was on her own at home. Dad was in Dunedin and immediately hitched a ride back on a truck – probably the only person trying to get to Christchurch!

In the days that followed, we grappled with what to do next. I felt so unsafe, that I was afraid that if we went, it would be hard to come back. So we stayed, and worked through it.

22 February 2011
On Saturday it was my daughter’s 2nd birthday, we had a quiet day and my Mum and Dad came round to visit and gave her a baby doll. Sunday we had a party out the back in the sun with friends and family and her wee playmate and cousins. And a rainbow cake made by my genius colleague Katie.

Monday – back to work. The exciting news late of a new nephew: my brother and his wife had a baby on Monday night, he delivered the baby in the carpark of the hospital.

On Tuesday, I got up and showered and dressed for work. Realised I was feeling a nasty cold or flu ache, so decided to stay home. The whanau piled into a car and went to go shopping and have a drive to Sumner or Lyttelton. I changed out of work clothes into velour trackies and crappy old maternity bra and put my glasses on.

Started to cook some spuds for lunch when the earthquake came. The noise was inutterably loud and forceful. Stuff flew at me from the cupboards, and the walls. I stood in the kitchen doorframe. I said my prayers aloud – this it it – the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Glory be – all compressed into a superfast urgent plea.

The fridge came down beside me. I had to get out of the house, all around me it was divesting itself of substance, breaking into constituent parts that didn’t rain down on me, but came at me on a 90 degree angle. I had tunnel vision – myself, the door, the fastest way to it.

Then I stood in the doorway, horrified, calling out to my neighbour in the front flat beside ours. She was home, and had an air of calm and decision, even though she couldn’t get out as her door was stuck closed. She smashed a window, and got out with her laptop.

Where was everybody? How was everybody? And especially my baby, is my baby ok, every atom of me begged to know if she was ok. The most awful sinking hole of pain. My neighbour calmed me down and tried to get a call through.

Our other neighbour came home, she was wonderful and by the two using their phones I found out my baby and my man were ok. All of the neighbours on the street came out and we talked, noted each other’s damage and we saw people coming down our street from the CBD, trying to make their way out of town and the tragedy.

Somewhere in here was a wonderful moment when I saw Mum and Dad come down the street. We grabbed a few clothes off the washing line, luckily the birthday girl had got some new clothes that I had washed. Undies for him. Floral leggings for me. There were a pair of old sneakers on the doorstep I grabbed, so had some footwear at least. Helpful with all the broken glass.

My guy rescued a few things from the house – baby stuff, a laptop and a phone.

We went to the burbs to stay with family, all sleeping in one bed, staying close and tight.

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