Friday, May 6, 2011

Aftershocks and afterwards

Forgive me - it has been many months since my last post.

Over these last few months I have experienced the whole range of emotions - from fear starting at 12.51pm on 22 February, when the 6.3 aftershock struck, to absolute overwhelming relief one and a half hours later when I finally saw my two children...and they were OK. Through to grief and pain as we saw the damage that mother nature had wreaked on our city and our friends.

I was relaxing and chatting to the wonderful Michelle at Kudos Hair Salon when the quake hit.  In the first few seconds we all thought it was just another largish aftershock.  It soon became apparent it was so much more than that.  The back wall of the building partially collapsed, and in the strong aftershock that hit 10 minutes later the front of the building across the road collapsed in terrifying style.  We all knew that Christchurch wasn't going to get away from this unscathed.

Kudos Hair Salon on the left,
Quinns (minus its front wall) across the road.
People rushed to help each other - to check that everyone was able to get out of the buildings they were in, helping those who needed help.

 Everyone had the same look on their face - shock, disbelief, and fear.  Nearly everyone held a cell phone - desperately trying to reach loved ones.  None of the calls or texts were going through.  I couldn't contact my children, their school, or their father.  I was desperate to find my children.

I eventually made my way home, a journey which earlier that day had taken 10 minutes, but that afternoon took an hour.  I was amazed that Christchurch drivers - usually renowned for their singular lack of road manners - were polite, outwardly calm, and considerate.

I arrived home to find that my ex had collected the children from school.  I am not ashamed to say I sobbed with relief.

Ten weeks have now passed.  Along with the rest of Christchurch we are slowly adjusting to the new normal.  We are still experiencing aftershocks, and will continue to do so for some time.  The chairs are back in their place around the dining table (I always knew there was a reason I'd insisted on a good solid table), but we are yet to put up a lot of the stuff that fell down (I'm using the very effective Floor Storage System).  We are yet to go into a multi storey carpark; and when we go into a large shop we make a quick plan and agree where we will meet should we be separated. We all have torches by our beds, and there is always a clear path to the nearest doorframe when we go to bed at night.  (This is a real achievement for Miss 9, who has perfected the art of the Floor Storage System.)

However, there are still nights when I wake up in the early hours.  Listening.  Waiting.  I am sure that given time, this too will pass.  I hope so.

Everyone has their stories to tell.  "Where were you?" is a common greeting when seeing people you haven't seen in a while - and we listen while they share their tale.

Twitter has been a real boon - it is great to feel in touch with your fellow Christchurchians late at night when there is an aftershock.  Then play a quick game of guess the magnitude, and for bonus points, pick which faultline was the culprit.   Many companies are using Twitter as a tool for getting vital information out there fast, with a personal touch.

Throughout this whole experience, I have seen the amazing spirit of Canterbury people - helping each other, and doing what it takes to fix our city and help its people. And when I took the kids south for a few days, to get away from the aftershocks for a bit - we were welcomed everywhere we went. I have always been proud to be from Christchurch and to be a Cantabrian.  But I am even prouder to be a Kiwi - we really do have a beautiful country, and wonderful caring people.

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