Thursday, February 24, 2011

6.3 Christchurch's dark day

I was in our shop, talking with a customer when the ground began to sway. I wasn't worried we have had loads of aftershocks and the shop has always been the safest place to be. Nothing falls off the shelves. The customer started to looked stressed, I was about to say, don't worry nothing falls here, when the shaking just got worse and worse. I grabbed the lady and we hugged under the counter. I rubbed her back as if she was one of my children. Bottles crashed off the wall shelving, smashing on the concrete floor - filling the air with the smell of quality sherry vinegar and the tang of chilli sauces and sweet kecap manis.
The ground stopped and we stood up, our hearts pumping. We surveyed the damage and went outside. The traffic was building up, the lights were out and we had no power. I realised my cellphone was beeping. Lucy was at school in the CBD. I had no idea the damage there and just figured she would be fine but I didnt know how we would get to her. Karl was at home on his day off with Tristan. He rang and I told him the damage to the shop. He was off into the city to find Lucy. Texts came all out of order. Details trickled to us that things were quite bad around town. I started cleaning up, cutting my fingers on bits of glass. I checked on neighbouring shops. People checked on me and we talked and commiserated and passed on the small nuggets of information we had. Karl still hadn't found Lucy. TIme ceased to have any meaning.
The sun was gone behind the clouds and as it got darker, I continued to sweep up the floor. Then wham another large aftershock hit and more bottles crashed onto the floor. I sat under the counter in tears. I lost it - the mess was worse. The hours of picking things up and starting to clean up was wasted. A middle aged man was walking past. He came in and reached down and held my hand. I calmed my shattered nerves and got back to cleaning. Two Burnside high school students came in and helped shift all the stock down onto the ground. They stayed and help clean up.
Then Karl arrived with the kids and we hugged and I burst into tears. We were together and safe. We tidied up as best we could. The floor still slippery and smelly with flavours. Then we went home.
On the drive home I looked at my watch it was 4:30pm - where had the day disappeared to?
I had barely eaten a thing.
Our driveway had a small hill and a pile of liquefaction. Things had fallen and broken in the aftershocks since Karl had left the house. The toilet floor had a crack through it. Our neighbour was home and okay and we went over to his house, pooling our food resources before they were destroyed from no power. Then some work colleagues of his arrived with a packed car of belongings. Their house in Mt Pleasant was broken and so were many of their neighbours. They told us people had died and we realised just how serious it was this time.
As the darkness filled our home and the rain began to fall outside, we went to bed - all in one room. This time I was in bed in clothes - shoes & jacket by the bed. I listened to the radio trying to work out how bad things were. Tristan fell asleep but Lucy lay awake and so did we. Every few minutes we were shaken by more aftershocks. They kept coming. Lucy finally fell asleep around midnight.
Karl got the call to go pick up a doctor friend from his work at the Latimer Square triage - pressed into action after visiting Christchurch to run a workshop. Karl left not knowing how driving would be and how far into the city he could get.
I cuddled up in the duvet, in the dark and the shaking, my body still tense, waiting for him to come back. He came home with stories and we tried to sleep. I felt myself start to drift and then my body would involuntary jump and I would be awake. Cramp squeezed my legs and feet.
I finally fell alseep around 6 am and then at 7am Tristan was beside me, asking for breakfast. The aftershocks continued and we decided what we were going to do.
We fled to Nelson and then we saw the coverage - the damage to the central city, the very streets Lucy had walked down with her classmates to congregate at the botanical gardens.
It is unreal. We are trying to make decisions on our future and it feels like this is a new beginning. Nothing will ever be the same. We had an old life, now we need to work out a new life - whatever shape that will take.

5 Favourite Sights Seen

  • 1996 Watching tropical lightning turn night to day, outside a little wooden church in a small village in Sabah.
  • 2004 Flying down the Rainbow Valley at 8000ft in a cessna on a clear blue day.
  • 2003 Seeing and hearing Michael Schmacher rolling out of the pit garage in his Ferrari in Hungary.
  • 2009 Chancing upon 100 or more dolphins just off the Kaikoura Coast swimming around, jumping out of the water, doing somersaults and generally having fun.
  • 2006 Finding a pool at the bottom of a waterfall in the bush at Kaikoura that was full of playing baby seals.