This is a transcript of an interview with Lisa Bevan conducted shortly after the 22 February 2011 earthquake.
My name is Lisa Bevan and I am 46.
I was downstairs under my house on Days Road in my workshop when the quake struck. I was just making a belt for some people and the earthquake started and I can’t really remember what happened. I know it got bigger and bigger and bigger and the next thing I knew I was standing by the side fence, holding onto it, I could feel the wood and breathing and panting and I saw all the clouds of dust coming up from Lyttelton and that was the most incredible site. All the cliffs from Quail island, the dust was rising from there and it was quite an apocalyptic thing because seeing all that dust I knew that some huge had happened, but it was all too quick to understand what had happened. Then I raced down to the neighbours to see whether they were OK – she was already tidying up about 3 seconds after the earthquake, but her husband was the same as me – panting.
The next thought was Paul, my ex-husband coz we had this thing, we’d ring each other or come and see each other after aftershocks and earth quakes so I managed to get hold of him. I got into my car and went down towards his house and I got to by ‘Ground’ and the second aftershock happened and that’s when the side of Ground fell off, just by where my car was, and I was completely encased in this cloud of dust, it was quite unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable, and this event is on Youtube. I remember driving down and the road went like this (moving hands) and all the people and… it really was like a film. People walking around and the dust and the ground moving and the chaos… it still is very vivid for me, quite a surreal experience. So I just got past Ground when I saw Paul in his van come up to meet me, we saw each other and then we bumped into other friends that had escaped from the Coffee Company, they were walking around and were really disorientated and dazed. It seemed to be a real process of checking everybody “Are you Ok? Are you OK?’ and then… I can’t really remember what happened then. The initial bit is really vivid for me, but then…
Paul came up to my house with me and we patched up the window and laid everything down that was still up and then I packed a few clothes and went to stay with him. His house was a perfect sanctuary of cleanliness – it was quite unreal to be there.
Then we went away for 10 days, maybe the next day. It was quite strange to be with my ex-husband, we formed this alliance and looked after each other. And I felt really guilty for being away, coz it was on the news the whole time, and I just wanted to watch and watch and watch it. And I was really aware that everybody would be here and doing stuff, but I actually couldn’t deal with it at the time, that wasn’t my time to do something then, it was for other people.
I wasn’t able to relax when we were away, I was still feeling caught up with it all, this huge thing that had happened, so even though I was away it was still very alive. Even though I wasn’t here I was still very involved internally. We went to Oamaru to begin with and then to Wanaka, because we were working as well.
In Wanaka I had an amazing experience. I met some of the USAR team, they had the command centre there… it was an exhibition trailer lent by the owner. It was a pod lined with white board, so they write down the teams and the operations and the areas and what everybody was doing. And it was incredible to see it. So I was able to meet some of the USAR team, one of them had been to Lyttelton. I was amazingly moved by how they’d been, because he said that all the USAR people, when this earthquake happened had just got in their car, loaded up their own food, their own petrol, their own tents, and they’d just come. To me this was an amazing thing that people had come to help us
I think the initial trauma was the hardest thing for me because this powerful, huge event had happened, it had happened to me and to everyone I knew and it happened to Christchurch New Zealand and it was a very powerful trauma. And I always felt growing up, being English, we don’t have things like this. And I know it’s probably the same for New Zealanders as well – they only have tiny ones, but the fact that I had shifted here… who knows that you would have a huge earthquake in your lifetime?
But it also really made me stop and relax and listen to myself much more. I’ve stopped fighting myself. The huge thing of the earthquake has forced me to stop and has taken away my business, so it’s enabling me to look again. And I’ve been able to help some people and that has been a precious thing to help someone else. All the people I have helped that has been an amazing experience, the connections with people. So many times I’ve said,’Oh, nothing matters any more’, and people always say to me ‘Oh, people matter.’ There is less stuff to worry about now, because it’s just the fundamentals that matter. Loads of things that would have worried me before don’t matter any more, what people might think or… I just cut through all that crap.
I have tried to notice how I felt. If I felt stressed or freaked or tired I have tried to listen to that since the earthquake. And that means that sometimes I have stayed in bed much longer than normally, I have started to look after myself more. I have been aware of wanting to help people and not getting to drained by that, and trying to reach out to people more rather than being insular.
I think if I went somewhere else I would not have all the roots that I have grown. I think some people have run away and I am worried they carry the bad experience with them.
This is the place in New Zealand I feel most at home in. I call this my home now and I did not have that so much in my life, so it’s important for me to stay, and it feels natural to stay, even though they are knocking half of it down now, people are cold this winter maybe and people are facing difficulties, but it’s my home.
This transcript is from one of a series of interviews carried out by Bettina Evans of Project Lyttelton. We are very grateful to Bettina and the interviewees for allowing their interview transcripts to be posted on QuakeStories.