– Beckenham, Christchurch

It all began on Saturday 4th September 2010… my 38th birthday. Not that I had a great many plans for the day… get up, open some presents that had been sent by friends and relations from overseas… maybe head to the tennis club and play a few games of tennis… nothing special. I live alone, have no family here so it wasn’t really going to be that special a day.

But it WAS still my birthday…

So what I wasn’t expecting, when I went to bed the night before, was to start my ‘special day’ by being literally tossed out of bed in the wee small hours of the morning…

At first my confused, half conscious mind thought that there was a freight train coming towards me. Then I rationalised that no, I lived nowhere near the rail line. Then I thought maybe it was a jet coming down on top of me… then, as I looked at the radio alarm just as the numbers on the face winked out it occurred to me that, what I was experiencing was my very first earthquake. And it was a bloody big one.

Of course, all this occurred within a very few seconds but it seemed like a lifetime. I live alone, it was pitched dark, I couldn’t see the books that were literally being flung off my book shelf like missiles but I sure could feel them. I could hear banging and crashing and smashing and it really felt like the world was ending…

Then after what seemed like forever, the shaking stopped and there was silence. I think that was more scary actually… the silence and the blackness that followed.

But of course then came the aftershocks. Had never been in an earthquake before but I knew they’d come. 99 on that first day… I counted.

99 earthquakes on my birthday. And a LOT of clearing up to do. Helluva present…

Once the electrics came on I wasn’t getting phone calls and e-mails from family and friends wishing me Happy Birthday, it was frantic messages wanting to know that I was ok… which of course I was. Well, a little ‘shook up’ maybe. Like the rest of Canterbury’s residents.

It was a miracle no one died… and we all knew we had dodged the proverbial bullet when we heard the magnitude. The same as Haiti that had killed tens of thousands…

So yeah, that was the best birthday gift I could have gotten. The fact that no one died.

Who knew that just a few months later we’d be hit by an even worse shake on Feb 22nd.

I am sure that was someone else’s birthday in Christchurch… and they weren’t as lucky as me…

Its been a tough year in a broken city with so much uncertainty and as I approach my 39th birthday in three weeks, I wonder what this next year will bring… who knows? Maybe it’s good that we can’t look ahead and see what’s around the corner.

One thing I do know though. I am lucky. I still have my health, my home… I am still here to have another birthday. 181 people are not…

And I guess that puts it all into perspective.

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