– Sumner, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

I was standing facing my 84 year old Mother in her kitchen, in her wee house on the flat in Sumner. I had just asked her what she would like for lunch when a rumble started. I could see my Mum’s expression change to one of worry and so I opened my arms and we hugged. Then BANG! we were thrown to the floor without warning, so fast thankfully that we did not reach out with an arm or leg to save ourselves and hence did not break any bones. We landed on my shoulders and upper right arm, my Mum on top of me.

We lay there, me looking at the ceiling and Mum clinging to me, while food fell out of the fridge to our right, crockery and food fell out of the cupboards and pantry, the TV fell over in the dining room and the room just went nuts! As we lay there I looked up at the ceiling, I thought, sh__, this time the ceiling could fall in. So I suggested that we shuffle under a door frame, about one metre behind us. But my Mum said she didn’t want to move and clung tighter. We stayed put.

When the shaking stopped, we got up and ran outside to the street. Then I said I would check on our neighbour who was due to give birth any day. I rapped on her door and she came after a few minutes, thankfully she had not fallen over and was unharmed.

I had to run back to my Mum as an after shock started up. We ended up on the street and saw rocks fall from Richmond Hill in clouds of dust and tiles being shaken off a house down the road, like water from a dog after being in the water. It was like a sci fi film set. A guy walked down the middle of the road, saying “f*ck man that one must have been centred in Sumner”, to no one in particular. I started to say, “centred in Sumner” over and over in my head as my husband works in the CBD and it was his lunchtime and I could not bear to think that it could have been centred in the city.

A friend of the neighbour arrived and we four woman stood hand in hand in a circle, calming each other and saying we would help each other get through this. I rang my husband’s cell number and left a message, my voice cracked as I asked him to call me.

About 10 minutes after the 6.3 I saw my husband’s face over the front fence as he approached the house. I will never forget that moment. He was okay, white as a sheet, walking his bike. He had been on a lunch time cycle, had ridden to Sumner and was cycling past the yacht club in Monck’s Bay when the earthquake struck, only minutes past Shag Rock and Peacock’s Gallop, and so had missed the rockfall.

We had 2 miracles in our family that day. One the fact that my Mum and I were together at her home. Had she fallen on her own, she would likely have broken a hip as she has osteoporosis, a possible seminal event at her age. Secondly, my husband was not in the CBD, walking around Cashel Mall as he often did in his lunch hour.

We are so grateful that we survived and unscathed. We were so lucky.

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