Christchurch Earthquake: “realising there is only one way out”

Danielle is another former colleague of mine, and another person I always think of as being calm and collected. She has found a clear positive as a result of the earthquake – a new career – but that takes nothing away from the fear of Feb 22 and subsequent aftershocks.


What was a negative emotion you felt on Feb 22?

Fear is what I felt when it happened. Being at the back of a high storey building I was worried about it collapsing, the ceiling panel falling beside me, and realising there is only one way out through the shop because the emergency exit out of Adventure Centre was blocked.

Then fear for my partner, who works on the 2nd level of a building on Hereford St. He was not in NZ for the Sept quake, so was worried for him as this was his first experience.

I remember seeing the Cathedral coming down with each shake and watching as injured people were pulled from the rubble. I didnt know this at the time, but I was told some those people were dead.

What about a positive emotion on that day, or over the course of the following week?

Relief when my partner found me in the Square, having him there to hold me through each aftershock.

We then walked from the City centre to Harewood through Liquefaction, listening to the Radio updates thinking how lucky we were to have survived such an ordeal. It wasn’t until a few hours / days later that everyone realised how damaging and fatal the quake was.

For me, I lost my job, but a good thing came from that – I found a better job. I am lucky my house is not majorly damaged.

Christchurch Earthquake: “the relief as people start checking in”

Dave Jackson is a university student from Hamilton whom I discovered on Twitter, somewhere in the lifetime of the #eqnz hashtag (which has become Twitter shorthand for everything Christchurch has been through over the past year and a half). He was in Christchurch until before Christmas 2011, studying at Canterbury University (where I also studied). He thus experienced both the first September 2010 quake and the big one a year ago today.

Dave was kind enough to let me cross-post a few words from his blog. The full entry is here; his words below are about getting home at the end of the day.


I sat down at the computer and the full extent of what had happened hit me, the checking in of people being OK and telling friends that you were fine. Then bed, snatched grasps of sleep between aftershocks. The booze and the sleeping pills looking tempting as hell, but you want to make sure you’ve got all your faculties about you if you need them.

Emotionally it was a frantic day. The initial panic of the quake, followed up by a sense of relief. Then the unease as you hear what happened, about the destruction and deaths. Then there’s the panic as you haven’t heard from people, the relief as people start checking in, and then as you get home to find power is back on you take a break, because you know that tomorrow is going to throw some challenges at you you never thought you’d face.

Christchurch Earthquake: “sirens and news helicopters”

Mel and I worked in the same store in Christchurch. I last saw Mel in Japan four years ago, when we walked around Shinto and Buddhist temples in Kamakura. (A lot of my connections to Christchurch are also connections to Japan.)  She now lives in Christchurch again and has been a regular participant in the volunteer silt-shovelling that follows each bad aftershock.


I was meant to be in High Street around the time of the quake to tutor a Japanese student but ended up changing my plans at the last minute to travel to Hanmer to see a friend from overseas. So I wasn’t in the thick of it as such, instead felt the quake while I was driving around Amberley somewhere.

What was a negative emotion you felt on Feb 22?

I felt a mixture of shock and fear. My friend and I arrived in Hanmer at her family’s bach and got told by her parents (who happened to be there for time out) that there’d been a major earthquake in Christchurch. I also felt extremely worried when I finally managed to speak to my mum, dad and sister on the phone. In the aftermath, I felt scared and confused due to various things, most notably lack of running water, electricity, the presence of the army and police, continual aftershocks, liquefaction in the flat I was living in and the constant sounds of sirens and news helicopters.

What about a positive emotion on that day, or over the course of the following week?

The only positive emotion on that day was gratitude for the fact that I’d changed my tutoring plans at the last minute and may have missed the unthinkable (although, who knows?) and that my friend’s parents let me stay the night at their bach as it was meant to be a day trip only. During the course of the week afterwards, I felt touched at the amount of caring and attention shown towards the people of Christchurch.

Christchurch Earthquake: “We all knew.”

I met Neil Purkiss on Twitter this week. Neil was living with his family in Christchurch on Feb 22 and, a few months later, wrote this detailed blog post reporting his and his family’s experience of the earthquake and its aftermath. He says that writing that post was “very therapeutic!”


What was a negative emotion you felt during Feb 22?

I had a feeling straight away that Christchurch was doomed.

I was in Caxton Press, Victoria St. I tried to drive home to Brighton and it was chaos. We left in June and live in Melbourne.

Thinking about it, the sense of doom maybe crept up on me in the next week. You could see it was bad on people’s faces. We all knew.

What was a positive emotion you felt during Feb 22?

Just when all family was together.

Christchurch Earthquake: “Fear. nothing else.”

I worked with Yuko in Christchurch. Our old workplace was right the middle of the city, on one side of Cathedral Square, and it no longer exists due to the damage suffered by the building.

Yuko was pretty much always the level-headed one at work, always calm and with quick wits. This may be partly a result of her Aikido training, in which she has earned a black belt. Still, the earthquake had a powerful effect.


Well, almost a year from the day, I still clearly remember what happened to me at that moment. Even though a lot of memories and my emotions after the event are now slowly fading away in my mind, or at least not really strongly impacted on me, I still can’t forget the moment.

What was a negative emotion you felt on Feb 22, and is there a specific experience/moment you associate with that?

Fear. nothing else. Fear Fear and Fear.

When the first big aftershock hit, I was at home, just finishing hanging up washing inside my flat. I was crouching to hang small stuff on the lowest line on a clothes rack. Then I grabbed a basket and noticed that I couldn’t stand up. ??? why? I think I had a completely blank moment for at least a couple of seconds. Sounds like a short moment but it wasn’t. It was a long moment to realize that a massive EQ was hitting us. And like a flashback, I suddenly heard myself screaming like hell. Also I heard massive mixed noises from things smashed, house rumbling , kids also screaming from a nearby school…

I had no courage to get out of my flat – or more to say, I had no idea what to do. I was panicked a bit because I couldn’t get out from a french door which we normally use as the entry, because the door was locked. My partner Kerry always locks the door after him when he goes out for work. And that morning, I was supposed to go to a friend of mine and help his business. But I had a funny headache in the morning so I canceled the plan and slept in. So the door was still locked and I had no idea where I left my key.

I noticed that I could get out from the laundry door behind the kitchen. Rushed to the kitchen and was shocked at the mess EQ made. Smashed glass and dishes everywhere, oil on the floor, the mess blocked me from getting to the laundry door because I was in bare feet. I rushed back to get a pair of shoes and another shock hit.

I rushed out to the street and saw neighbors also out, some crying, some looking absent-minded. I saw the dog next door also out in the street as the fence fell down and he wasn’t leashed. I saw dust and smoke from the direction of city and also Sumner. Neighbors talked with each other and tried to comfort each other. Still hearing massive screams from school at every aftershock hit.

Kerry managed to come back from work (His work is just two or three minutes’ drive from home) in a lady’s car. He said he couldn’t drive through the bridge because of a massive crack and the height difference between the street and the bridge, so he left his car and walked across the bridge. The lady, who knows Kerry, spotted him and offered him a ride.

Kerry quickly shot off with my car to check his mum who lives nearby and bring her to our home. She was so shaky. We tried to call to friends and family to see if they were safe. Thanks we still have old Telecom phone!! While we really struggle to find information on what was happening from radio, slowly info came from friends and family who are living in the west side of town or out of town with text messages. Kerry’s Telecom was still working. My Vodafone was crapped out.

Couldn’t believe what they were telling us; there sounds to be some casualty, the cathedral seemed to have collapsed, CTV building collapsed and burning by fire… no water, no power everywhere…….

Night was coming and we had to prepare while still in shock. I had an emergency pack prepared before September EQ and also built up more food and equipment after the September, so had no worry to spend a couple of days or more without water and power. However, I didn’t prepare myself when I suffered a disaster. Fear everywhere in my mind, constant aftershock expanding the worry.

Still, I made a straight face for Kerry’s mum and tried to comfort her as she had an angina condition triggered by September EQ and I wouldn’t like to have the same situation. She looked OK and said she was. But at 1AM at night, she suddenly said ‘I need to go to hospital’. Called 111 and asked for an ambulance, fearing we had no quick service or no quick treatment available for her. After an hour wait, a massive army ambulance arrived and took her to hospital. The driver was from out of Christchurch and didn’t know the quickest way to get a hospital. No GPS in the army truck. Kerry and the driver took a Christchurch map out and guessed which way was safe and quick to get to a hospital. He told us they took mum to St George’s Hospital.

We called to St George’s next morning and found she wasn’t there. They suggested that she might be in St Margaret Hospital. Gave them a call and also found no record of her. The reception suggested Christchurch City Hospital. Bingo!! she was in her old ward, the same room when she was in September….

Sorry for the long story. But what I want to say is the emotion while I had these events unfolding in front of me, if you ask me what the negative emotion I experienced was: fear, nothing else. Always fear about when the next big aftershock will hit, maybe this moment? maybe a minute later? maybe while I was preparing tea for us and friends who didn’t have a BBQ and didn’t have any food? Fear can’t be controlled. it’s seeping into my mind. Still does actually.

What about a positive emotion on that day, or over the course of the following week?

Positive emotion is appreciation. I appreciated Kerry was safe, Mum was safe, his whole family and friends were safe.
Neighbors were safe, not many injuries around us, some neighbors who had a well in their garden opened the gate and offered free water, made sure everyone was safe and OK with each other…… suddenly a close-knit community built up…. I was living on this street for around three years but didn’t know much about my neighbors. That was quite a warm feeling, getting to know them.

I also appreciated that help arrived so quickly and efficiently. The initial help arrived so quickly, I felt. That gave us some power to get through the though time, I believe.

I don’t know if what I wrote is help for you. I just wanted to write, maybe, just before the memorial day come.

Christchurch Earthquake: Listen.

It’s February 22, one year since the major earthquake in Christchurch that resulted in 185 deaths.

One thing I notice is that in many of the blog posts and news reports about Christchurch since that day, very little context is provided or needed. Virtually every New Zealander knows about the earthquake and its aftermath in incredible detail. We’ve read, seen and, for about ten percent of us, experienced the disaster over and over again, with fresh perspectives adding new layers of clarity every day. It’s for this reason that sentences like the first one in this post are practically redundant. Everyone knows.

It’s for this reason also that I questioned putting anything on my blog to mark the first anniversary of the biggest #eqnz. What could I add to the stack of reports that hasn’t already been said? I used to live in Christchurch, for five years; I watched in horror from my house in India as the TV reports rolled in, scouring Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other previously unseen corners of the Internet for new information, especially about the welfare of people I knew. But does the world need my detailed perspective, too?

I contacted some people who were in Christchurch that day, as well as spoke to others who had strong ties to Christchurch but were elsewhere on February 22. A few indicated that they had things to say. I figure that while the world (or New Zealand) may not need more words about the earthquake, some people affected by it might value a space for self-expression.

So, that’s what my blog is today and for the next few days. I’ve asked some just to write about a negative and a positive emotion linked to the earthquake and the days that followed; others have come up with something different. (If you’re reading this and want to contribute something, get in touch via Twitter or Facebook.)

I hope everyone who suffered through the big earthquake a year ago, and who continues to suffer through aftershocks and trauma, is able to mark the occasion on their own terms. Kia kaha.