– Avonhead, Christchurch

4 September 2010 – 4:35am…

I was woken from a deep sleep by the bed shaking violently.

“Earthquake!?” I half say, half yell to myself in disbelief as I leap out of bed and try to stand in the ensuite doorway. My thought for the first few seconds is that Wellington is getting “The Big One” it has been promised for years and we are getting the edge of it.

A couple of seconds later as I hear and feel the deafening rattle and shake of our house I realized it must be OUR BIG ONE!

I looked across the room to my wife Nicki who is standing by the French door holding desperately to its frame.

The shaking just isn’t stopping the sound of things crashing to the floor echo though the house. I can’t believe the widows aren’t breaking.

The power and streetlights have gone out so we are in pitch blackness.

After 40 seconds, which felt like 4 minutes, the shaking starts to slow down and finally stop.

Silence!....except for a loud chiming coming down the hallway. (What on earth is that?)

“Are you ok??” I ask Nicki
“I don’t know..” she says in shock.
We stumble around.
Where are the torches? Where are the camping lamps?

We make it to the kitchen to find Nicki aunts old carriage clock, which we never wind up, continuously chiming! “Ding dong, ding dong, ding dong ding dong!!” Nicki, shaking, opens the front glass of the clock to move the hands off the hour only to have the clock continue chiming but with the half hour chime! Clearly the vibrations from the quake have sent the clocks mechanism into overdrive! Eventually it stops plunging the house into complete silence.

We had to light a candle for light! Too bad if the gas was leaking! Finally find a torch we see broken ornaments all over the lounge floor. The CD and DVD stands have fallen over spreading their contents across the room.

We heard voices on the street, and cars driving off. Where are they going?
“What do we do now?” Nicki asks.
“Find a radio?” I suggest. Find one but no batteries!

We only now realise how cold it is and we’re shivering in just out night clothes.

We get back into bed, each with a headphone from Nickis MP3 in our ear tuned to Radio Live. We lay there shivering and in shock listening to callers calling in to tell their story and damage they have seen.

We cling tightly to each other with each aftershock we feel. Slowly the daylight starts to arrive. Nickis mobile started to ring. We spoke to her parents and mine to say we were shaken but ok.

We got up to survey the damage. Aside from the broken ornaments the house appeared largely intact. We rang our friends Jane and Ian. They were fine and still had power. They invited us over for breakfast.

On the way there we see fallen fences and chimneys. Parts of the church at Church Corner had crumbled, the supermarket is shut.

On arrival Nicki suggests we try and get hold of Aunty Audrey – alone in her house in Kaiapoi. We ring her with no answer. Fearing she has fallen we ring the retirement home across the road. The kind man there says he will pop across after doing his drug round!

He calls back to advise Audrey is in fine sprits sitting in her sun room with her neighbours. A great relief.

We got home to find the power back on. We spent the rest of that day watching the continuous TV coverage – not believing the damage to roads, buildings and houses, but comforted by the news there had been no deaths…

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