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November 22nd, 2011

i started writing this months ago, not long after the giant devastating earthquake hit where i live.

on feb 22, a 6.3 magnitude quake hit christchurch at 12.50ish pm, killing 165 and causing major damage mostly to the central city and a lot of damage to almost the whole city.
it was located in the hills in lyttleton and it had a force that put septembers 7.1 to shame (the quake that wrecked my work place at the time)

let me share my experience of it.
i was at home, in a nearly 100 year old two storey double brick house. i lived about 10 mins away from the CBD, in the hard hit eastern suburbs. when it hit, i had just got out of my chair to go and get something to eat from the kitchen because i had just got home from uni. at 1st, there was a rumble and a wobble. i honestly went "ohshit" and thought it was an aftershock. then it got bigger and bigger and everything i own started to fall on the gound, the chimney crashed through the roof into a spare room that we don't use and was resting on the dining room ceiling at the back of the house and i watched plaster and brick fall from my walls. again i honestly said "ohshit" albeit a bit louder this time and was knocked on my arse by my door.
my flatmate screamed and ran out of his room. we looked at each other and i thought his eyeballs were going to pop out of his head.
when it was finished i looked around the room, then the house saying "fuck fuck fuck" the entire time. started freaking out about taylah being at school, and hoped she would be alright schools are built tough.
at home flatmate noticed exposed double brick and got the fuck out of the house.
another flatmate (bling) came running into the house. he had been down the road at eastgate mall having lunch in the food court when it hit. bits of the mall fell down around him as there was a stampede to get out. he ran all the way home, and was a bit concerned when he came around the corner and couldn't see the roof of the house, but he misjudged where it was. he described the damage he saw on his was home and that's when i realised that this one might just had killed people.
i grabbed the phone which wasn't working because it was a cordless and the power was out, so i text brett, and my other two flatmates to make sure they were ok, and to tell them the house was fucked.
i grabbed my emergency food box, filled a suitcase with clothes that were nearby, put my laptop, phone, diary and personal documents on my satchel, grabbed my helmet and taylahs push bike helmet and went outside to jump on my bike (my scooter of all of 49cc's). i was determined to get to taylah and even brett if need be (celphone coverage was pretty much knocked out and hadn't got a response)
i made sure the flatmates weren't going anywhere in a hurry so we could use the house as a hub for everyone to return too when brett's dad showed up.
he was on an overpass when it hit and thought he had blown out a tire at 1st. i yelled out "were coming to stay at your house" when i saw him. i kinda blurbled at him about not hearing from brett and taylah being at school and he assured me that taylah was probably fine and he text brett. being on the same network he got a quicker response than i did. he left to go and check on both sets of brett's elderly grandparents.
i finally heard from brett, who had been at uni in riccarton when it hit, coming out of a lecture. accacia (another flatmate) was there was well, under the library building (which had only really just reopened after the sept quake) and she was with him and they were trying to get home. i got a bajillion text from nick (flatmate also) and he was making his way home too from the inner city.
i had never been so grateful for my wee scooter before this day. it took me 10 minutes to get to taylah's school, where as people in cars were stuck in traffic for hours and hours. under the lakes of burst water mains and sewer pipes were sink holes and badly damaged roads. on my scooter i was up and down the footpaths, on peoples properties and zipping in and out of the stuck traffic.
when i got to the school, all the kids had been evacuated to the playing field. there was water and liquefaction coming up under them, so they had to keep moving over. i left my scooter at the gate and ran in.
taylah saw me pretty quickly, leapt at me and hugged me like a limpet. i told her the house was damaged but everyone was ok and went to find her teacher.
as i walked up to her teacher one of the other teachers walked up to him with her phone and said "the cathedral is gone". things started really kicking in from there.
i took taylah to brett's grandparents who live right next to the school and left her there with them so i could go back home and sort out things from there.
back at the house the girlfriend of the at home flatmate had shown up, with her mum and they proceeded to have a freaking domestic. i was glad when they were finally gone.
nick had also arrived home and brett was not long after, acacia saw her mum and jumped in her car on the way home. we all talked about what happened to us. nick having to leave the building his course was in so quickly he couldn't grab anything. brett being stuck in traffic for 4 hours, he was getting updates from his friend in canada on his blackberry and from the radio. blings i have already mentioned and mine is this now. acacia was dropped off by her mum soon after.
we all got what we needed out of the house because there was no way any of us could stay there and put it all out in the drive way and just sorta stood around like "well, now what". there were phone calls and text messages to friends and family to make sure everyone was ok, to tell them we were ok and to organise somewhere for everyone to go.
while standing in the driveway, we saw doctors and nurses walking towards the city, while hundreds of pedestrians with stunned looks on their faces and cars were leaving it. i asked some people walking away from the city how it was, i got back "it's fucked, there's people dead". wow
we saw people we knew, asked them how they were and they asked us the same. it was all pretty surreal.
brett and i packed the car in readiness to go to his parents house in swannanoa (north canterbury) where taylah had already been taken.
the at home flatmate left in his girlfriends car to his mums house.
bling organised to go to a friends.
nick and acacia were waiting for nick's dad to come and get them, but he couldn't get through all the traffic so they borrowed our bikes and biked to nicks parents house in cashmere.
once i knew everyone had somewhere to go we made our way north, slowly. it took us 4 hours to get down a stretch of road that normal takes 2 minutes, another 2 hours to get down another. we were listening to the radio in total disbelief the whole time. also, i was glad to grab some snack food from the house, neither of us had eaten since morning. that was the best muesli bar i have ever had.
late that night we got to brett's parents house. it was a full house with brett's parents, grandparents, us and friends of bretts parents there.
i pretty much passed out rather than fall asleep that night.
so that was the day of feburary 22nd, 2011.

in the months following we lived in a caravan at brett's parents house. it was a bit close i tell you.
the old house had an artisian well, so we hooked the hose up to it and put up some "free water" signs and let the neighbours help themselves. we weren't using it.
we were back and forward moving our stuff that wasn't damaged into brett's grandparents garage. it wasn't much.
my work place wasn't damaged much. i helped organise a task force of work mates to get in there and clean it all up about a week and a half after. the chiller obviously was a mess. all that booze and glassware CRASH onto a concrette floor. it took us 4 solid days of cleaning to get it all up to scratch. i went shopping for food, wrote and temporary menu, while the other duty managers worked out a roster and the owners worked out the carpet drying and the council visits and we were open for business. i helped clean up the other bar, chats in new brighton. they took longer to re open due to having no power or water in the area and having more damage.
i helped out clean up a few of the harringtons bottle stores brett works at. harringtons lost one of it's bottle stores, and had to get rid of a lot in the breweries due to the water being contaminated and the power being off, but the stores that could open did almost straight away.
coming in from swananoa daily was time consuming and expensive. i was leaving my scooter at the harrington restaurant in belfast and going into town on it, taking water and stuff to people who couldn't get about either due to no public transport or the mucked up roads. then, it died. the crankshaft went. it was going to cost more to get a new one than the bike cost, so RIP scooter.
i was trying to still go to uni, they had set up a tent city of lecture theatres and stuff in a large carpark. the tents were cold and noisy. the university kept on moving my lectures and tutorials around at short notice. most of the work was done online (which is not how i like to study), with not having my own transport, brett was having the drop me off in the morning, my lecture would be at lunch time, i wouldn't start work until about 4 or 5, it was a waste of time and money, so i withdrew.
meanwhile, taylah was enrolled in the local school. brett's mum is a teacher there and they live in the old school house so we were right next door. after a bit of kicking and screaming she settled in.

a friend of ours told us his family had a place for rent near where we used to live. brett went and had a look, it wasn't nice. but his grandmother had been put in a home and her house was available. it was perfect, smaller and newer than our old house, and so warm! we moved in 2 months after the quake and have been here since. taylah was able to go back to her old school and settled back in.

nearly 10 months later. most of the CBD is closed, and half of it is gone. they have cleared up and open parts of it, the roads are still munted but are slowly getting repaired, there are still areas with dodgey power and sewerage and the city has been divided into red, orange, white or green zones. red zones are the places and land that are badly damaged and the government is buying the houses in those zones. orange is a maybe zone. white is a still undecided, and green is ok. we are in a green zone, but a lot of our street is red. you can find photos and information about this anywhere on the net.

we are slowly getting back to normal. there are reminders of it all everyday. at home it's using other peoples furniture. out on the streets it's the road works and pot holes. it's the abandoned house, and the gaps where things used to be. not being able to "pop into town" and grab something. you tend to do things that you never thought off. i have always had an emergency box, now i make sure i have water, torches and a cooker too. i make sure i don't leave things in the way of doors or within running away areas lol. i also have learnt that i am good in an emergency.

your life gets divided into before and after a event like this. nothing is ever going to be back the way it was or "normal" but you adjust. christchurch is going to take a long time to heal, and it will be different. it's going to be an awesome experience to see a community/city not rebuild, but be reborn

my house after the quake
other quake pics i took out and about the inte few weeks afterwards

and the CBD now.