– Blenheim, Marlborough, New Zealand

Miles away from Christchurch in Marlborough, it was a calm and quiet night. The nights were starting to get warmer and I had questioned whether my children still needed the heater on overnight. Although we all have our own rooms we had been sharing one room over the previous two or three months so we would only need one heater. Just after 4.30 am both of my children woke upset. It occurred to me that the room might be too hot so I got up to turn it down. As I did I realised it really wasn’t that warm in the room. Both of the children took a while to settle back to sleep and seemed unusually tense. Being that it was a weekend and we had planned a trip to Picton the next day I was keen to resettle them. I looked at the time on my phone a remember clearly seeing that it was 4.38am according to the display. I thought nothing more of it until the next morning when I awoke and turned on the news. An ice-cold shiver ran through my body when I saw the “breaking news” banner run across the screen, images of my home town lying in ruins behind it. That was what had woken my children and dozens of others I have since spoken to. What a shock to see what had happened to my beautiful home city, if you had of told me a day earlier that a quake would destroy one of our biggest cities, I, along with probabaly the majority of the country, would have assumed it would be Wellington. Noone saw this coming.

On February 22nd I was working from home when we felt a small tremor. The lights flickered on and off a couple of times which they did again sometime soon after. I had a client with me and we both thought it very strange that the lights should be affected by such a small shake. She looked at me and said “there goes Wellington”. It never occurred to us that such a major aftershock could hit Christchurch months down the track after they had subsided so much and the talk had turned from aftershocks to rebuilding. We were both on edge and although we had been talking before we both went quiet and the radio in the background seemed to take over. We both froze when we heard the news that a major shock had struck Canterbury with expected fatalaties. Both of us have immediate and extended family and friends living in Christchurch. She turned to me and told me to turn on the TV and we sat glued to it for the next two hours, watching horrified at the footage, waiting for a text or call to know the worst. Two hours later she got a message from a friend saying that her son and two grandchildren were ok but there was not much left of their home. The next day and a half seemed to drag on forever, waiting to hear whether my brother was ok. By the next morning with no news, watching the footage of ruined buildings and people being pulled from the rubble, my mother was beside herself. We were helpless, we had tried to contact him but to no avail. At about six o’clock that night there was a knock on mum’s door. I went to answer it, mum refused to leave the TV. There was TK, standing in the doorway! I don’t think I have ever felt so relieved in my life! I took him in to the house and mum leapt to her feet, turned white as a ghost and sat back down again bursting into tears. Even with the million questions running through our heads it was a very quiet evening, a feeling of relief ran through the household that night.

Christchurch is still and always will be home. It will never be the same again, so much has been lost, but it will be beautiful again, and strong, and the heart of the city remains the same as it always was. Kia kaha Christchurch, may the future be greater than the past that was lost.

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