Thursday, 4 September 2014

Four Years On...

Four years ago today, life for the residents of Christchurch and the surrounding area changed forever.
Our city was hit by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake.
It was a bolt out of the blue, nobody expected an earthquake in Christchurch, even though historical sources show a history of quakes in the area.

I have previously written about the February earthquake, but I don't think that I have ever really written about this one. Unlike many of my friends who live in Christchurch, for me "the big one" was the September earthquake.

The main thing that I remember about the quake was the noise.
We were rudely awakened by a deafening crack.
There was silence.
Then the world started shaking violently.

I was 5 months pregnant, but I have never run so fast to my daughter's room. I bounced off the walls on the way- it was like being at sea.

When I reached her cot, she was fast asleep. The shaking stopped and for a brief second I considered leaving her to sleep, she looked so peaceful, but then the shaking started again and I scooped her up in my arms.

Growing up in Scotland, earthquake drills was not high on the list of things that we learnt, but the one thing that I knew was that we should brace ourselves in the doorway.

And there we stayed, in pitch blackness. Waiting for the next of the barage of aftershocks to hit.
It was terrifying.
As one quake ended, the next one would begin. It went on and on.
We didn't have smart phones and didn't have a battery operated radio so we had no way of knowing what had happened.
Our minds raced, wondering where the fault was. Were our friends ok? Were there any casualties? What had happened to our safe little world?
We madly sent out texts to everyone that we could think of and finally my husband's sister in Holland replied telling us that there had been an earthquake just north of Christchurch. We were later to discover that the early location was wrong and that the epicentre was just down the road from where we live.

Rascal was not quite two and it all seemed like a big adventure to her. She smiled and said "bang" each time that an aftershock hit. We did our best to stay upbeat for her. That said, she became very aware of light and dark and was definitely happier when the display of hubby's mobile phone provided some light. 
Her terror of earthquakes was to come months later.

For the record, sitting cross-legged with a small child on your knee for hours on end is not good for the hips of a pregnant woman- it almost crippled me for months but with careful exercise and a bit of swimming its amazing what you can do to ease the pain.

And so the worst 7 or 8 months of our lives. We grew to identify the magnitude of earthquakes and to tell whether they were close-by or far away. Nobody went anywhere without a mobile phone and we made sure that we knew where our family members were at all times. After each aftershock, texts would be sent- "did you feel that one?" It was a big one!"

After those 7 or 8 months the quakes became less and less regular for us, even though they carried on for the people of Christchurch. The epicentre of the quakes moved gradually eastward and we realised that many of the quakes that had terrified us in the early days were probably not even felt in Christchurch.

And now our city is a building site. The centre of town is filled with empty spaces and car parks where the unsafe buildings have fallen down or been ripped down. The rebuild has begun and there are exciting signs of art and culture springing up all around the place. It is amazing to see what people can do when they put their minds to it! But it will be a long time before the centre of our city is the flourishing vibrant heart that it once was.


  1. I so glad that you came through the earthquakes safely. Your paper patterns are just so wonderful. We have earthquakes here in Alaska so I know they are scary. Take care.

  2. Big hugs to you and your babies - I can but only imagine the terror. But you troop on, smile on your face, brave as. Keep smiling xx

  3. It sounds terrifying. There isn't any recourse really against nature. I'm glad you have been rebuilding and getting stronger there.

  4. I don't know what to say Juliet, I cant even begin to imagine what you have all been through. I've been wondering about your baby who was born during quake-time... was it as terrifying for him/her (?sorry) as it was for the older children?

  5. I think it is so hard to imagine what it has been like for you all. Seems especially hard on so many children.

  6. It must have been absolutely terrifying, Juliet. Hard for us to imagine, even though we watched it on the news.

  7. Hi Juliet! I cant believe its been four years already. I still remember the shock. One of our cousins was visiting Christchurch at the time. Im so glad life goes on and art sprouts even in the darkest times.

  8. I hadn't even heard of these months of earthquakes, only the "big" one - and I've appreciated your input before, moreso now. Can't imagine the terror, less so for somebody pregnant. That being said, I really can't imagine sitting like that for hours. I had two car rides of two and nearly three hours respectively this week and felt like an old old lady afterwards and took minutes to recover into normal walming mode, more to feel good again. Sitting cross-legged? For hours? No way!


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