– Saint Albans, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

This is a transcript of an interview with Josine Giacometti conducted shortly after the 4 September 2010 earthquake.

My name is Josine Giacometti and at the time of the earthquake we were in our house in town in Christchurch in St. Albans and I am 40 years old. The house is an old 1920s wooden house.

We were peacefully sleeping and I don’t know why but for the last half year I had this building feeling of ‘Oh, there is going to be an earthquake some day soon’, and for a long time I had prepared myself and had extra clothing and my winter jacket and my keys by the front door. But because CPIT, where I study, got very busy over the last 6 weeks, I didn’t do that any more. I don’t know, I hadn’t been tuning into my feelings any more.

So on that night I woke up with the beginnings of that shaking and I knew instantly there was an earthquake, and it still gives me goose bumps, it was so awful. I shouted to Marco, ‘Wake up, wake up, there is an earthquake, and get the kids!” Both of our kids sleep in bunk beds and I knew I can’t lift them out any more because they are nearly 7 and 8 and they are too heavy for me to pick up, so all I could do is open the door from the hall to the front door and open the front door because we wanted to go out of the house because we felt that was the safest option. So I stood there and I felt absolutely helpless and I panicked.

Because I couldn’t do anything I panicked, it seemed like half an hour before Marco had the first child and I leapt outside and then we stood outside and there were after shakings and the most eerie thing was the whole world was silent except for all of the car alarms everywhere were going ‘bling-bling-bling-bling’ and then shortly afterwards – oh no, it took quite a while – and then you could hear the sirens of the Police and Fire Brigade and things like that and also when it was shaking I saw flashes in the sky, I don’t know what that was. I can imagine when the earth has a big movement electromagnetically it reacts with the atmosphere above but I have no idea.

So we stood there outside in our bare feet and nighties and it was cold and we didn’t have our car keys and we didn’t have our coats, nothing, so we stood there for a bit until Marco, my husband, he kept his cool. He said “I know where my car keys are, I run in and better get them. ‘

So he went and got them and we climbed in our car, started it up, tuned in our radio and started to listen. We also got our backpack and our cellphones, so we started to text home and then we got the sleeping bags out of the garage, because we had everything low down and ready to grab, so we wrapped up and stayed in the car for a while and then Marco said “Ok, it looks like it’s over, should we go back in?”, and I couldn’t. I said “No, I am not going back in that house for anything.” So we stayed in the car until it became really light. And of course there were considerable aftershakes afterwards. Oh, I was so grateful to stay out of the house!

It has taken me a week and a half to get out of this repeat… the film of constantly revisiting that moment. And so now, also with the help of a homoeopath, I have found my feet again and am able to breathe calmly.

In the days following the earthquake, because it just wouldn’t stop shaking, especially when we were in the house, we would start sleeping all together in the living room, oh no, the following night we pitched our tent, and we slept in the garden. And then the night after that we started sleeping in the living room, but ended up at 3 o’clock in the night in the car, coz it rattled too much. And then on the 4th day I said ‘I can’t do it any more.’ and we went and rented a camper van and came over to Lyttelton, the place where we wanted to live anyway. And in the campervan it was bliss, because whatever you do the van moves, and if there was an aftershock you didn’t really notice. So it really helped us all calm down. So when the big aftershock happened in Lyttelton, we were not really phased because we were in the campervan.

But now we live here in Cornwall Road and start feeling really settled and even sleep through some of the aftershakes. We are happy now.

A big issue was also that I wanted the family together at all times. I did not want to be away from my children and my husband wanted to do his thing, but we were always together, or if not immediately together we knew that you were away for quarter of an hour and we knew where the other person goes. And it was mainly my humongous fear that drove that behaviour, because I think my husband was pretty easy going.

My husband works at Lincoln University in a building on the 8th floor and all of the windows in that building had gone and he had stated straight away ‘Look, I will not go back into that building until I think it is safe.’ On the Thursday after the earthquake we have been receiving emails saying “Well, are you going to come to university and give your speech on Thursday?”, not “How are you doing? Is your house and family, are they safe?” Nothing, so he said “Ah well, I might as well extend my absence.”

But now the children are settled into school, I am able to be here at home while they are at school, as long as I know where everybody is.

That is a realisation that I had when we were in the car, probably after an hour of coming to the realisation of what has actually happened, and being able to breathe and not feeling that I was going to faint, I thought “I don’t care about anything in the house.“ I mean, sure, you don’t want your house to collapse, because of its value, but I don’t care if everything in the house has gone to pieces, I wouldn’t have cared, because we’re out, we’re safe. And it has shown me: What is important in life? I have been saying that for a week and a half after the earthquake – What is your favourite thing, Mum? “Sunshine, going outside, breathing fresh air, being in the sun and enjoying the moment.”

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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