How It Was For MeI was lucky enough to miss the September 7.1 that was the cause of the trouble down here in Christchurch, NZ.
I was also lucky that the Boxing Day aftershock of 'only' 4.9 closed my shop - because the latest big one, a 6.3 on Feb 22nd, totally destroyed it and I don't think its a drama filled exaggeration to say I might not be here if I had been there.
The 6.3 was..unbelievable - to say it was frightening doesn't have the right resonance. I was in a meeting room in the bowels of a shopping mall when it hit. At the time, I didn't fear for my life - Im not sure I had the time! Somehow I got a bruise the side of my hand on my thigh; must have done it when I climbed under the table.
I don't remember being really frightened until we got to the stairs, opened the door that would lead to our exit and saw.... total destruction, ceiling panels down, light fixtures floating, stock everywhere. Realised pretty quick that was not a safe way out - somehow we managed to make our way through the dust and the dark and get out. The building is now deemed to be so unsafe it will be closed for at least 6weeks.
Once we got out, I think thats where it really got scary - people screaming, crying, a lady so scared she was vomiting into the bushes. The panic, the violation, no one knowing where it was safe to stand and wait... for what? To go back in the mall? To go home? People on the phone, desperate, calling their family. People not getting through.
Then cars everywhere as people fled - and liquifaction. No one tells you about liquifaction. Basically, the ground is loose and the underground water gets forced up - and floods onto the street, it moves fast, its cold and dirty - filled with silt. We got stranded in the middle of the road, and then forced to wade through it. The water is too much for the road itself to take - I saw a car sink into a hole that formed in the middle of the road. The hole just opened up, and down the car went.
It was completely surreal.
You see things in life and some you forget, but some things get imprinted so deep you can see them clear as day when you close your eyes. I will always see that room when we opened the door at the top of the stairs, thinking this was our way out. And I will always remember how the ground and the water just opened up and swallowed cars.
And yet, Im so so lucky. At least Im here, I can tell you what I saw - death toll stands at 166 - those people aren't with us to say what they experienced - and no matter how traumatic this was for me - I still count myself lucky and will always spare a thought for those that weren't.