We came to live in Christchurch a month before the September Quake. Our 18 year old twin daughters where home alone when the early morning quake struck. My husband and I were sleeping our campervan in Riverton, Southland, the ground moving woke us both up and immediately the mobile rang. Our hysterical daughter was under the bed with her twin sister, in absolute panic, unsure what to do. We were 8 long hours drive away, we calmed them and started driving, listening to updates on the radio on the long road back. I have never experienced a mother’s fear of isolation and helplessness like that long drive…I just needed to hug them and reassure them!
The whole feeling of the city at that time was relief that none had lost lives and we were all nearly jubulant that we, the people of Christchurch had survived the wrath of Mother Nature. Little did we know, worse was to come!
Feb 22 will live long in my memory. Even though I write this just after the second anniversary, I can remember the acute feeling of total helplessness, we were subjected to a massive earthly jolt, shooting my daughter and I off our chairs in Cass Bay, Lyttelton. Our lunch landed on the floor, things fell all around, we were on the second floor and we honestly had the feeling it was the end. We clung to each other in the door way and were rooted to the spot, every time we even thought about trying to run there was another huge shake, the noise too was so scarey, overwhelming!
My husband in a surreal moment rang my mobile which just happened to be within arms reach and he could hear us crying and screaming as he was attempting to drive down Hoon Hay Rd, experiencing an apocolypic movie scene, with road gratings shooting into the air and the hard kerbsides and road surface buckling and bending in front of his eyes. He took a long time to make it back to us…experiencing licquifaction and boulders on the road trying to get home.
My other daughter was attending her first day at CPIT, she had run out of the building with other panicked students, one girl shockingly ran into the path of an oncomming car, the grand old Basicila building was tumbling to the ground in front of their eyes. There where huge tears, stunned, shocked silence and panic trying to phone, text or somehow talk and console others that were hurt.
We finally reunited after a very long winded journey, navagating huge boulders on Dyres Pass Road, offering help to others along the way, seeing stunned and very shaken citizens stumbling, panicked steps trying to get home, make contact with their loved ones, very nervous and anxious about ongoing aftershocks.
The traffic was so slow and poor Sophie was trying to find her way to a landmark we could recognise to pick her up. I shall never forget jumping out of the standstill car, half running, half walking down Brogham Street past the old church on the corner of Colombo Street, a police man shouting at me to cross over the road and not walk too close to the doyley like structure of the old stone church, its stained windows all like latice work, barely standing. I finally sighted her and ran to give her the biggest hug in the world, so happy, relieved we had all been spared.
Two years later, we are still near Lyttelton. We have been in New Zealand now for nearly four years, we have made some lovely friends and feel the experience has heightened our appreciation of life, our loved ones and lessened the need for material possessions or the silly fickle things in life. We love this land, we feel part of the community and we feel so sorry for those who lost loved ones they cherished. Christchurch will rise again, the people are strong and resilient….it will take time.