Friday, February 25, 2011

Our darkest day - 22nd Feb Christchurch Earthquake

I'm sad, I'm teary and I feel at such a loss for my city  and it's people.

It's time to write as I can't do anything else.  My leg is still healing after surgery so I'm on crutches still and I have never felt so helpless in all my life.  I want to dig, shovel, tidy, clean and fix our community but I can't.

We have left and are staying with family in Blenheim.  Our beautiful Sumner is a ghost town and we have all left to re-group and find safety with our loved ones.  I miss you all my dear friends.

My tears come at unexpected times.  They scare me  because they are for friends and our homes.  I let them come because it's better than feeling numb.  With my tears I release my emotion of hurt, grief and shock.

Once my daily gratitudes included things like "thanks for my beautiful home", now it's simple "thanks for my family to still be alive".

The emotion of this events is coming out today for me.  I am recalling the moment when the quake hit and all the feelings that accompanied that dreadful event.  I want to tell you just so I can let it out.

I was sitting on my bed (which was put downstairs as I was on  bed-rest).  I was alone.  I was speaking to a fabric supplier on the phone.  I felt a shake and immediately thought it was one of many aftershocks.  Quite quickly I realised it wasn't.  While still holding the phone I grabbed my crutches and took off to the under the door-frame.  It was the noise of the house being violently shaken and all our "stuff" being thrown around the place - a noise I will not ever forgot.  

The phone call went dead.  I tried to call my husband Jeff.  No connection.  He texted me to say he was ok but in town.  I replied that I was scared and needed him.  I said please come home.  Again the phone disconnected.  I realised I was alone.  The kids... Oh my god.

All the doors were shut closed and I had to force the front door open to get outside.  It's the weirdest things you re-call.  I smelt nail polish.  I saw ornaments from the hallway sitting outside on the front porch.  My wee dog Eddie whining and shaking - not leaving my side.  I looked down at my own legs and they too were shaking.  I could hardly stand.

The aftershocks continued but I felt better that I was outside now.  All I could see what that our front yard was filling with water and fountains of sand were coming up from the ground. It didn't make sense and I just stared at them thinking "how odd".  I was jolted out of that weird thinking with screaming - it was coming from the school which was 3 blocks away.  I needed to get to my girls.

I glanced over to the direction of the school and all I could see what the cliffs of Richmond Hill falling and huge clouds of red dust filling the air.  My urgency to see my children was all consuming.

I started hobbling down the road.  I just wanted to see my girls and know they were ok.  It was this raw and all-complelling feeling which I would never forget.  A friend pulled up in front of me in their car.  They had been in the supermarket.  We hugged and I cried for the first time.  Her hug was so comforting but I had to let go and  find the girls.  I looked down and she had blood in her feet.  Her mum said that she would take me so we got into the car and headed for the school.

When I got there all the kids had been moved back into Van Ash park - I guess a safer area.  There was no one at school.  We drove through mangled streets and finally found the kids and teachers in lines walking.  In the last group was my eldest daughter - she was clinging to her class-mates and they were hysterical.  I grabbed her and hugged her to hard.  My dear wee daughter was safe.  I had to find my youngest daughter Violet now.

We made it  to the park and their were parents, children and teachers swarming to find each other.  I heard my name and it was the head-boy, Jackson Murray calling me to say that Violet was safe and she was here.  The relief was insane.  He showed me where she was and her teacher said she was the bravest girl.  She was smiling and told me she had not got to finish her lunch.  I laughed.  I'm so lucky.

We got dropped off back home and I made the girls sit outside while I raced around inside trying to make it safe and to collect essentials.  My mind was fuzzy and it was hard to think.  The after-shocks continued and the girls smiled through them.  Smiles on there mouths and bravery in there eyes.  I could tell they were being brave fro Mummy.

My phone rang - it was my Mum.  I cried again as it was so nice to hear her voice.  I told her I didn't know where Jeff was and I had to stay off the phone.  I was so worried about him.  I had been texting him telling him that I was going to get the kids so I hopped he knew that we were ok.  He was trying to get home.

We all sat together outside and hugged each other.  Isla told me she was worried about me and Eddie the dog the most and that's why she was crying.  The love that envelopes you when you here that kinda thing was just enormous.  I'm not really sure how long we were like that when Jeff walked in the gate but he ran to me and I told him "Thank god you are here".  We were still a family.

From then it was survival mode.  We packed our bags with supplies, grabbed passports and got out of the house.  There were many after-shocks and the house just rocked so badly.

We went down the road to our neighbours house where we seemed to all be gathering.  It was now time to be together and wait for family and friends to return to Sumner.  We were alive but something in the back of our minds told us many where not.

The rest of the story was being told all over the internet and the news.  Of course we had no access to any of these things as power was out.  We were cut off.

We gathered around the radio and gradually we realised that we had been directly in the line of this new earthquake.  We were hit bad.  Town was bad too with already unstable buildings from Septembers quake were now rubble.  People were hurt too and we knew that this time it was a lot worse than in September.

I now sit helpless watching the news.  Some stories of survival but all too many with bad news.

Thank you for letting me share my story.  It will be one of many.  We are lucky but many are not.  Send your love and support to our courageous city because we will need every bit of it.

Stay safe x


  1. I'm so so relieved you four (plus pup) are safe. My thoughts are with you.



  2. I'm crying as I read this because so much of your experience is like my own. Looking forward to getting the f$%k outta here on Sunday. Its all too sad I can't watch the telly any more. They say when you finally feel safe, then the grief comes - ride the wave. We'll find a way to make it alright again eh?

  3. p.s. Spoke to Lorelei today, finally (I was getting a little frantic) - everyone is ok over there, but the shop's not looking too good.

  4. Oh good to hear - I had tried to contact Rebecca so was worried. My grief came today hence the writing. It's been a very teary and choked up day.

  5. We're so happy you guys are OK Alex. Wow your account of what happening sounds terrifying. Come and stay whenever. Thinking of you and great to chat before. Talk soon.

  6. Great to hear your voice Fefe - I heard flights to Auckland are now $2000! WTF. That's nuts. Maybe will visit when that price comes down..