Seven years ago at 12:51 pm I was getting ready to go out for lunch. A friend was picking me up at 1pm. He had suggested arriving at 12:30, but I was feeling a bit lazy so I suggested 1pm instead as it would give me another half an hour to get ready. I think feeling a bit lazy that day might have saved my life. If he had picked me up at 12:30 we would have been in the middle of the CBD at 12:51. Instead I was relatively safer at home at that time when the earthquake struck.
At 12:51 suddenly everything began to shake violently I ran to my bedroom to see all my bookshelves simultaneously fall over. The shelf in the hallway had also fallen over blocking the way to the front door and rather than hiding under a table (as I should have done) I was in full panic mode and managed to get the back door open (the door frame had buckled but I didn’t realise) and ran out into the back garden. Luckily the chimney had been removed after the first quake in September, so there were no bricks to land on me. The shaking subsided and in that brief moment my entire city was forever changed.
The earthquake on February 22 at 12:51 pm was a 6.3 but very shallow quake. It was an aftershock of the 7.1 quake we had in September the previous year, which had done far less damage as it was further away and slightly deeper. I didn’t dare go back into the house for a while. If I attempted to, there was another violent aftershock so I stuck to staying outside for the first few hours. I wandered out of the property and looked down the road. I could see dust in the air where the CBD was and I knew there would have been fatalities this time. I wondered what had happened to my friend who had been driving to pick me up at the time and I wondered how my flatmate was as he would have been in the CBD when it hit. I think I stood there for a while. One of my neighbours came up to me and asked if I was ok and I think I spoke gibberish to him, but after looking at me in a concerned way he guessed I was alright though I was obviously in shock. Liquid had also begun to spurt out of the ground from various openings and I stared at it uncomprehendingly as I didn’t know anything about liquefaction then. It all seemed very surreal.
There were several more violent shakes. It felt was as though the ground was made of jelly. Every time we had a shake there was this weird swaying after it as though the earth was trying find it’s place again. I managed to get inside the house and move the bookcase in front of the door and find the phone which I put on an extension cord and put on the porch. I was surprised to find the phone was still working. There was no power and no water. I saw myself in the bathroom mirror. I was very pale and covered in dust. I didn’t have a radio so I had no idea how bad it was out there. Eventually my flatmate returned home and I was overjoyed to find he was ok. I heard that several buildings had collapsed and possibly the Cathedral as well. My flatmate found a battery radio and slowly the news of what had happened filtered in. Later on I heard from my friend. He hadn’t yet got to the central city when the earthquake struck and had turned around and headed for home.So it was good to hear he was ok too. Power got restored around midnight where we were, so I heated up some soup which was the first food I had all day. We both slept in the lounge that night and would do so for the next few nights. My flatmate didn’t want to sleep upstairs and I didn’t want to be alone.
It still counts as the worst day of my life so far. 185 people were killed and the city was forever changed, To this day the CBD has huge spaces where buildings used to be and there are still barriers up to some of the buildings that survived. I think everyone here who got through that day still has an element of PTSD. Every time there is a noticeable aftershock it brings back memories and sensations of that time. I hope I don’t have to face another day like that.