– Price Water House Building, Armagh St, Christchurch Central

As our city broke so did my heart as I realised that my best friend was gone.

I was working on the 19th floor of the Price Water House building when the quake hit. We had felt after shocks in the building before but we were reassured that the building was sound. The fact that Becca the structural engineers also had offices in our building gave me confidence that we would be ok should there be a big one.

I will never forget the sound of the building creaking as the quake started. I got under my desk and held onto this metal pole that was holding up the desk . A glass vase of flowers smashed on the tiles in front of me. The photocopier was smashing from the wall to my desk and back again. I was later to learn that the entire front was smashed off with the force.

I always thought after watching the twin towers come down, that if something like that was to happen to our building, I would rush to the window and try and smash it and leap out. I didn’t even have time to think about doing that, I just held onto the pole and hoped it would be alright.

When the shaking stopped one of the partners in the firm came rushing through yelling “Is everyone alright and get out, just get out”. I grabbed my wallet and cellphone (something I had never done in our fire drills and thought I must remember for next fire drill). Some of the emergency lights were out in the stair wells so we used our cellphones as lights. I felt plaster beneath my feet and the whole time I was texting my family hoping that at least if another shake was to bring the building down they would know that I had made it to the stair well. The phones were down so my texts were not getting through, I kept trying.

The first thing I saw outside when I looked across the street was the collapsed PGC Building. I remember just looking at it in disbelief I knew my friend worked there. Standing on the bank of the Avon a big after shock hit. I thought that if it carried on then our work building would collapse. I decided just to get out of there. Crossing Colombo Street and seeing the collapsed Cathedral was like being in a movie, it didn’t seem real.

I walked for about an hour to get home. On the way home people were coming out of there houses asking what it was like in the city. I don’t think they could comprehend how bad.

My husband thought that my work building had collapsed he ran 5 blocks hoping that it was all ok. When he got there I had gone. We had only been married since November 2010.

The worst was to come when we discovered that our bridesmaid and my best friend had been killed in the PGC Building. She was an amazing person. Her name was Adrienne Meredith, she was 36. She spent her spare time building up her clothing range that she sold at the weekend markets and on the internet. She had infact handed in her notice and was going to quit work to concentrate on sewing full time. The irony was that she would always text me after every after shock and ask if we were ok. I knew that as the hours went by she was gone.

Adrienne loved to travel and although she was brought up in Dunedin she had spent 10 years living and working in the UK. She had only been back in New Zealand for about 3 years. The saddest thing for the family is that Adrienne was one of three children. Her older brother Phillip died suddenly 10 years ago of a virus that went to his heart.

Like many people I lost my job. It was a difficult time.

The hardest thing is that we all went to work that day and within a few hours our lives were changed forever. I enjoyed my job, my office had the most amazing views of the Southern Alps. Everything changed within minutes.

I was fortunate enough to get another job within a couple of weeks.

I have decided that 2012 will be a better year for us. We have just had our first child, he was born on the 1st of February. The saddest thing is that my good friend is not here to meet him.

Debbie Brown-Smith

Tell your story Report this story

Report this Story as Inappropriate

If you've noticed any inappropriate content in this story or feel that the story contains privacy violations, please fill out the form below.

We'll review your report and remove information that is in violation of our policies.

We'll only use your email address to let you know about the result of your report.