– Hawkhurst Road, Lyttelton, Canterbury, New Zealand

This is a transcript of an interview with Glenn Harris conducted 10 days after the 4 September 2010 earthquake.

My name is Glenn Harris, I live up on Hawkhurst Road and I am 32. Our house is a wooden old cottage, 1800 something.

On Saturday morning I got woken rudely by Andrew. Yeah, I slept through it, I grew up in Golden Bay, we get them quite often that way, not quite that heavy though.

Once we’d checked our house we walked down all the way down Hawkhurst, through the gully, looked at each other and said “This is probably not the safest place to be!”, got down to the dairy at 5, opened the door, walked straight on into the shop, didn’t check for any structures. All the shelves had all their stuff dumped off them onto the floor, everything just about. Drink fridges were fine but all out of line where they’d rolled across the floor, looked around, everything was secure, locked the door behind us, went back home and went to bed – but did not manage to go back to sleep!

Came back down to the shop at half past 7, got a txt from one of our staff members saying “Are we still opening, or what’s happening?” and we said “Yes, we’re going to open.” So we cleaned up the shop and opened the door and then the mad panic started at about 8 o’clock. People coming in and buying everything they could get their hands on, like water – we opened our doors at 8, by 9.30 we sold out of water, bread – yeah, the milkman turned up at 9.30 because he was on the road when it struck, so we got a delivery of milk at least. He said “If you got fridge space, put it in!” because he didn’t know when he was going to come again.

That day was just people buying left right and centre, all things they didn’t have in their pantry and then for survival kits. A customer came in and bought eight tins of baked beans and spaghetti and I think she ended up spending about $150, but the amount of people caught short because they didn’t have cash was the amazing thing, because everyone uses Eftpos cards and there was no power. For our regular customers we just jotted it down and gave them IOU type of thing. For our really good customers and people that we knew we allowed them to write cheques.

Thankfully we had the shop to concentrate on, all our energy went into the shop, we were just worrying about the shop. Had to make sure we were fully stocked up, staff doesn’t get over stressed with all the extra customers coming through the door, becoming counsellors to the customers. Quite a bit of people wanted someone to talk to, we probably didn’t have time to worry about ourselves, because we worried about everyone else, we were always last on the list of people to worry about.

At one stage last week when we finally had a chance to go home, because all I wanted to do was go home, and we got home and I said “Oh, I don’t really want to be at home, all I want to do is go back to work.” Very funny situation, not comfortable in either scenario.

Now, 10 days after the quake, I feel fine. Just another thing we all have to go through. If anything I suppose it brought us closer together, because we all experienced the one thing at the same time. Unlike most other things in life which you only share with one or two people, the way that this happened we shared it with all of our community.

That big Wednesday aftershock, we were at the shop at 8 am in the morning, there were 2 customers in here and myself and the bread delivery man and I’d never seen people run so fast in my life, they all took off in different directions, then regrouped. I went outside after the shock, and the community spirit outside, everyone checking on everyone else, was absolutely amazing. Andrew turned around and said “I’ve never cuddled so many people in one day.”

The way everyone looked after everyone else, that was probably the biggest thing that came out of this disaster. We don’t need to rely on bigger services, coz we can keep it in our community, and we all did, and I think we can give ourselves a big pat on the back for that.

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.

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