– Burwood, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

On the day of the Feb 2011 ‘quake, I was at a training session on the 2nd floor in Colombo Street. The force of the ‘quake pushed me up in the air – felt like it was all in slow motion, then suddenly skidding across the carpet – got carpet burns along my leg and back. Then one of the others on the course grabbed me and pulled me under a bench.

Once the shaking stopped we were supposed to leave everything and go downstairs. It probably seems crazy knowing the destruction that ‘quake caused in town, but I went across and collected everyone’s bags and took them down with me – all I could think is that no one could get home without their keys and guessing they were in the bags.

Coming outside it seemed like a zombie movie. Everyone was in shock, there were alarms going off and sirens and people walking around in a daze, some shouting. My first thought was my daughter who had a 5 week old baby, so I tried driving there. I got caught up on Bealey Ave. People driving up the middle between the trees to try to get ahead. People running out of petrol as the traffic just sat. It took an hour to go round the block, by which time Edgeware Road was under water. My daughter wasn’t home, so started driving home, thinking I’d go and see my how my parents were on the way, but too flooded to get there. Everywhere was flooded and for a while I didn’t think I’d get home. I could see cars upended and abandoned down every street along Hills Road and all the back streets leading up to Shirley Road, where I needed to go. It took 3 hours from the time I left Colombo to get to my home in Burwood. My husband had been worried as he’d heard a building had come down on Colombo and he wasn’t sure which one I was in.

My youngest son didn’t get home till around 6pm and we’d had no phone contact from him, so were very worried as he had been on the 6th floor of the CPIT building. We were enormously relieved when he arrived home unhurt. Apparently someone had free pancakes going for lunch and he’d convinced all his mates to go downstairs for them a few minutes before the earthquake struck. He’d then driven one of them home out to Springston as their car was in a carpark building and couldn’t be got out.

I had to walk a large part of the way through knee-high sludge to check on my mum and dad. By the time I got back home the rest of my family were there (including my grandchildren) and they all stayed for several weeks – very full house, and nerve-racking after-shocks, but a lovely time really with everyone together.

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