– Corner of High Street, Lichfield Street and Manchester Street

My story is from the first of the big Christchurch earthquakes.

I was living in an apartment in a heritage building in central Christchurch. On the 4th of September 2010, at 4.35 am, I was suddenly up and standing in the doorway of my bedroom before I was fully awake. I wondered what was happening when the real shaking began!! I held on, swearing and thinking, and wondering which big fault had ruptured, not knowing it was a previously unknown fault. It was only later that I realised that I was standing under an interior wall, not a structural one.

After the shaking stopped, I switched on a light and donned my outer clothing and went outside. I found out later that I was one of only 30 % of the city that had power and water.

I went outside and headed straight to the middle of the street, away from the buildings, and tried to herd others away from walls and buildings as well. We all went to the small park where High Street, Manchester Street and Lichfield Street all meet. It was then that my sister in Canada called my cellphone. They had seen the reports on the news already about the big earthquake in Christchurch. My father had called my home phone, and of course got no answer, and so she called me on my cellphone to ensure I was OK. It was at that point that the first big aftershock hit, the ground shaking and rolling while I was talking to my sister.

All of us gathered at the corner park were consoling each other and looking around at the damage when we all noticed lights flashing from beneath the rubble from a collapsed building front on Manchester Street. It was a taxi that had been buried in the earthquake!

A few people went over, concerned that someone was trapped inside the car beneath the debris. They came back to report that it was empty. The taxi driver had, just minutes before the earthquake hit, stepped out of his taxi to have a cigarette! He is the only person on the face of the planet who can legitimately claim that smoking saved his life.

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