At 12.51pm on 22 February 2011, a massive 6.3 magnitude earthquake shook Christchurch to it’s very core, and changed our lives, and our city forever. 185 people were killed and several thousand were injured. Today marks three years since that day.
After the big quake on 4 September the year prior, we all thought we’d had our ‘big one’ and that we were just riding out the thousands of aftershocks.
Our family was pretty much unaffected, but this is our story: My eldest son was at school and my father and I had just been to see an exhibition in town, picked up my youngest and returned home for lunch. As the earthquake hit, I stood in the kitchen waiting to ride it out. But that’s not what happened. The feelings of terror and helplessness were overwhelming as the movement grew in intensity. Everything fell and smashed as I stood and held onto the doorframe struggling to stay upright. When the initial quake subsided I ran next door to check on my father and youngest son. They were unhurt, so I ran across the road to my eldest son’s school where it was lunchtime. The children were screaming and crying and being ushered into class lines by the teachers. My son was distraught. Back home we checked on all our neighbours and joined with them to cook our evening meal on their BBQ, and I sent up a prayer of thanks that I’d done the grocery shopping and had a full tank of petrol.
A few days later after we’d organised emergency repairs, the boys and I left Christchurch for the relative safety of our family holiday house. The feeling of relief and escape as I drove the three hours south was a huge stress release. Naively I thought we’d stay a week or so until the earth settled down again, but we ended up enrolling the boys in the local school and pre-school and joining the community there for the rest of the school term.
Three years on and our house is fixed, twice. The tens of thousands of aftershocks have settled down and life now has a new normal. My eldest son was diagnosed with earthquake anxiety and we’ve been on a course to help with that, which has meant he can now sleep in his own bed at night, but earthquake drills still bring on panic attacks as do situations with loud noises or movement (like the chocolate factory tour we went on), and he’s too scared to go to use the bathroom at school. We live our lives within our suburb, and generally avoid our broken central city. We enjoy the new architecture and cafes that have come to our suburb. We always check the escape route out of buildings. We take advantage of the activities that are organised to encourage people to come together. We miss our beautiful old buildings. We are patient with the endless roadworks as crews rebuild our broken drains and roads. Our post-earthquake journey will go on for years to come.
In some way our lives will be forever affected by the 2011 earthquake. Today, we pause and remember.
The image I’ve used is from the Christchurch City Council and shows a road cone with flowers in it. This is what the residents of Christchurch did on the first anniversary of the 2011 earthquake to remember those who died or were injured.
This link to Flickr shows some of the thousands of cones that were decorated with flowers