– Saint Martins, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

On the morning of the 22nd my partner rang me and asked if I wanted to go and have lunch in Cashel Mall with him, he worked in there. I am so glad now that I had to take our six month old daughter to the doctor so I said no. Our boys aged 8 and 2 were at school and pre school and I went about my day as usual.

I was driving back from the doctor along under the hills when it happened. The car started to shake and I could see the road ripping open and what I thought was water spewing up. The car in front of me stopped so I pulled up behind him. We both got out of our cars and a man who I had never met before in my life came over and hugged me. “that was a f***ing big one” he said. I looked up onto the hills and saw what I thought was smoke. “look at the smoke” I said ” no love that’s dust, the houses are falling down” he replied. He was good, talked to me, calmed me down.

I didn’t know where to go first as my kids were in different places. Luckily we had pulled over under the hill where my sons school is. “Where do you need to be?” he asked. I explained that I didn’t know who to go to first. The man took my hand and lead me across the road “look at the school” he said “the buildings are still standing and they are getting the kids out, that son will be fine go to the one you cant see” as he was saying this a mum that I knew ran up to me. “My house just fell down” she said “as I ran it collapsed so I just ran here I didn’t stop running”. The man asked again if I needed anything and then said he was off to find his own family.

As I got to the preschool another one came, big, the cars were shaking up and down in the car park and I had trouble keeping my footing, bricks and tiles were falling from a house next door down onto the car park, me and some other mums were trying to dodge them. I didn’t make it home that day until well after 4pm, that’s how long it took, all the bridges were closed and other roads were in passable because the road had opened up and cars had fallen in. That was the worst day of my life up till then and I had no idea how much worse it was going to get. I didn’t know how bad town was, I had no idea what my partner and his work mates would be seeing and going through. In a way I wish I still didn’t know. The bakery he suggested for lunch collapsed and three people lost their lives. But I will always be so grateful to that kind man who stopped and hugged me.

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