When the February quake hit, 3 years ago, I didn’t feel scared. I don’t ‘freak’ out in earthquakes, something in me stills and I am very calm. I was in a safe building but the power had gone out so I had to help with the evacuation as emergency lighting kicked in. It wasn’t until about 30 minutes later before I finally evacuated myself – that was when it hit me what had happened. I evacuated into Cashel Mall, buildings had crumbled, lampposts were down, aftershocks hit making masonry fall down onto the street. I covered my head as we walked down the centre of the street to the relative safety of the grassy river bank.
I know I saw bodies under bricks, and I saw injuries and chaos. I knew it was bad. But I don’t think it really hit home for a few days. I managed to get home just around 5pm – four hours later. Power returned at my house at 8pm and I made a hot drink – the first thing I’d had to drink since 10am that morning – let alone eat. I don’t think I ate anything until the next day. I turned the tele on to see what was going on – but I had to turn it off in about 5 minutes … it was overwhelming and my head was still reeling from what I’d experienced; I wasn’t ready to see what everyone else had experienced.
That day 3 years ago changed our lives here in Canterbury. Every single person in the city and region who felt that earthquake have different experiences of it, and we reacted differently. Even within my workplace experiences were different depending where you were in the building, and where you evacuated to outside.
What I saw was bad, others saw even worse, down the same street at the CTV site, or across the river at PGG. We all absorbed it and coped with it in in our own different ways.
Over the following months we absorbed and coped with the aftershocks, with the loss of life, with the loss of our city, the loss of homes. We all had different experiences and we all coped with it differently.
We are often referred to as “resilient” – an overused word. I would have said I was pretty resilient before the earthquakes what with my health issues, and my parents’ deaths. We’re not resilient. We just cope. Differently. Within our city people have different issues, different losses and different experiences. But we are joined by the one thing that have caused these things. And we are joined by who we are – Cantabrians.
For me, I am hopeful of what lies ahead. It’s going to be at least 20 years before our city is truly a “city” again. It has the bones of it, and it has the people to be a great city. We have wonderful folk doing wonderful things – bringing brightness into gaps, volunteers who help in a range of things within our community. I am excited by the future and its potential. I am an optimist and a glass is full person. It isn’t so easy for everyone. As I said, we all have our own issues to deal with. I have been more fortunate than many, but I’m no less effected by the earthquake or my experience, and I am aware and affected by the stories of those that are fighting their battles.
At 12.51pm I will bow my head for those that died, for the things we lost – homes, communities and buildings. I will think of those who are struggling and hope they start to see light at the end of their personal tunnels. And I will hope for our future, for the bright potential future my beloved Christchurch holds. To me, it was, and still is, the only city in New Zealand I want to live.