Wednesday, July 17, 2013

ps, I love you too

After my post yesterday, a few people posted some really amazing comments 
which have really made an impression on me.
For the first time, it really sunk in what it might have been like
for those watching on the TV in other cities around the country.

They are such thoughtful comments, I decided to give them a post of their own...

Emma said: Someone from Christchurch recently told me that none of you had seen that TV footage. I was astonished but of course it makes sense.

I was at my desk at work and thought I'd just check Twitter before heading to Whitcoulls to get something. And I saw a tweet that the Christchurch Catherdral has collapsed. As you can imagine it was the strangest thing I've ever read - and then all these other tweets about an earthquake. I turned to my boss and told him what I'd read and we stared at each other in wonder and shock.

That afternoon we comforted the people in our office from Christchurch who struggled to find out how their families were and just wanted to be there.

Then for the next hours and days and weeks we watched non-stop TV and media until our eyeballs were dry. It was stunning and shocking and compelling. 

Someone I'd done work with but had never met died in the CTV building, which was emotionally weird. And we watched people on TV keep vigil there and waited as we learnt that people were still in the PGB Building. None of those places were particularly familiar and you had to constantly remind yourself this was Christchurch.

It was such a weird day and so weird now to learn the rest of us were completely over-saturated in news and media coverage when you all know nothing.

Jen saidI did get to see that footage on the day - amazingly, the power didn't go off in our suburb, so when I got home my partner was watching it all unfold on TV. That was the strangest experience - seeing such horrific destruction and terror on TV and knowing it was happening right here in my own city, only a few km from where I sat. Even though the aftershocks that shook the camera were shaking our house too, I struggled to convince myself that it was really happening, and I wasn't just watching a movie.

But re-watching any of the footage from that day still brings a knot to my stomach and a tear to my eye. I'm surrounded by earthquake images all day in my job (I work for the CEISMIC archive), but their power to shock doesn't diminish. A terrible terrible day for our city, but you're right, one that gave us such strength.

Pauline saidI don't like to watch that footage either because my husband pops up in it from time to time and he's never really talked to me about those nights. He worked out of Latimer Sq and was at the CTV building right through the night of the 22nd. He came home the next morning covered in grime and smelling of smoke and looked at me with haunted eyes and didn't say anything. I see his photo in old newspaper coverage and there's a shot of him working in the earthquake book. And we were so removed from it all in a suburb which didn't lose water or power, where life carried on very much as it had before except suddenly everything outside of us had changed and those changes quickly smashed their way into our smug and secure little lives. It's hard to explain what school became like... 700 traumatized kids day after day, going through the motions, hiding under tables during the constant aftershocks, trying to be brave when they were afraid and really being scared as witless as the kids were. Our school is about to be knocked down. Our house still isn't fixed. Life still feels very much in limbo.

Nin saidI'll never forget the feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach when I finally managed to get out of Stitch (where I was working and got trapped) and look down Colombo St - the spire that should have been there was just gone. I immediately thought of all the tourists that go up and down that spire every day - of the crowds that used to be in the square at lunchtime, of my friends working in the brick building that housed my studio - how could it still be standing if the cathedral wasn't? 

Being trapped in a building by myself with constant aftershocks, no phone/cell phone is hands down the scariest thing I've ever had to go through - I think I shy away from seeing footage, particularly of the collapsed buildings for this reason.

I do want to see that doco "When a City Falls" - I hear its really good. I might wait a few more years before I brave it ;)

These pictures were taken on our last day at Woolston Playcentre,
we had no idea that when we left that day, we would never ever go back.

But I really want to acknowledge in this space,
that yes life changed for us, but also for the rest of New Zealand
who have shared in our pain and listened to our stories,
over and over and over again.

Thank you.
Please keep listening.

If you want to, you can watch this footage by Hamish Clark,
I had never seen any of this until Monday. It shocks me to my core.
If you have been reading this blog for a while,
you will know that our two eldest children were in the Cashel Mall.


  1. I remember that day. I remember listening to National Radio, and hearing Jim Mora say there had been another quake. A big one. I remember this footage. I remember thinking Hamish Clark was getting in the way a bit, and he was silly to go inside the Cathedral it was so dangerous. I now realise he was doing an important job.
    My Aunty was trapped in the Press Building. Two of my friends (a couple) had text me, but couldn't contact each other. It took a long time for me to hear that all my many friends and family in Chch were safe. XO

  2. Just before I went to pick my daughter up from preschool I heard on the radio there had been another earthquake. Once home we watched the footage all afternoon, crying and not quite believing what we were seeing. Knowing so many lives would never ever be the same again was such a huge concept to grasp. XXXXX

  3. I'd just had a long chat to my sister on the phone, something we don't normally do in the middle of the day. She home schools, and had to leave to pick up her eldest daughter. Once she'd hung up I turned the radio on and heard Jim Mora saying that there'd been another earthquake. I tried to ring my sister, but of course didn't get through. She didn't have a cell phone (she does now) so I texted my brother-in-law. his reply was he's just seen the building next door fall down (the PGG building). That was when I realised things were bad.I saw him on the TV triaging in Latimer Sq, he didn't get home until after 10. He did manage to text me and say my sister and their kids were fine. I've only been back to Chch twice since, the city I lived in for 7 years is not the same. It's still hard to comprehend. Kia kaha xx

  4. I often feel guilt over my quake experiences. We went through it all like everyone down here, but we were blessed to have a flight out the next day. We had already booked them, and we drove through the fallen city, it was a ghost town, to the airport, not knowing if it was even going to be open. The people at the airport... I'll never forget it. It was PACKED, only standing room as people waited for a flight that wasn't going to happen (thankfully ours weren't cancelled like everyone elses). The eyes of those strangers. They were so tired. So sad. Everyone had a sleepless night. Everyone understood each other. I've never felt so close to a room full of strangers before.

    When we got to auckland we were greeted by the media, and by a friend at the airport. He had all the news for us. He knew everything. We sat in his car and listened to the radio for hours. We went to his house and watched his TV. I saw my friend who had died. We went to a church conference and were constantly asked about it. "its just like what they're showing on the TV" we'd say. We didn't have our own words to respond.

    We were so relieved to be away from the hell, but had such guilt to be away. All I could think about were my friends and family back home, while we skipped away to live a life of luxury with water for a few days.

  5. I was in Wellington. We were in a meeting and someone came in and said there had been a big one in Christchurch. Everyone stood up and walked out. We watched that video from Hamish Clark, live, on the internet. We were streaming sky on a colleague's computer, crammed into a little office just watching and watching. Stuff crashed because so many people were trying to see what was going on. My colleagues with family in Christchurch were trying to get in touch. No-one got any work done that afternoon. I remember about a week later there was a decent size earthquake in Wellington, at about 10.30 at night. The whole family was still awake and we shot for the doorways. Once it was over we wondered whether Christchurch was still left - twitter was the fastest way to find out, the traditional media was always too slow. I still don't want to watch that Hamish Clark video, even now, and it didn't even happen to me. I can't imagine how hard it was for you. I think you are doing amazingly well. Kia kaha.

  6. I was having afternoon tea with friends I hadn't seen in over 10yrs; we had no idea what was happening in Christchurch until my brother rang to tell me he was okay. He didn't know much (and it turns out he rang just before the lines crashed), but we turned on the the TV to find out more.
    As the scenes unfolded in front of our eyes, I kept trying to blink them away. The images didn't seem real - couldn't be real. The enormity of it didn't sink in for a while; we hadn't felt the quake in Dunedin, so how could it be as bad as reported??! Disbelief, followed by shock, dread, horror, sadness.
    I left the TV on all afternoon, desperately trying to call my parents who were to be staying in Christchurch that night, desperately trying to get word from my brother again about his family. By the time my husband got home, I was numb but couldn't get away from the images in front of me.
    As the hours passed, as I felt sick in the pit of my stomach, I cried with each new report, with each new image. I was hopeful one minute, devastated in the next. And it hit me then that if I, four hours away, felt like this...well, I couldn't even imagine what being there was like.
    My heart broke for Christchurch that afternoon, and it still aches for you all xxxx

  7. Its a process getting through this earthquake stuff. I think you are so brave to share it here, but maybe that's what you need to do. Its really encouraging to see you have turned a corner in a subtle way and despite the sadness you can celebrate the strength you have which has only surfaced because of crisis and some of the change that is having positive impacts for you now (like your course)

  8. Like many others I sat glued to the TV for days, sitting there in shock that it happened in our little felt weird to shed tears and feel such overwhelming emotion for people I did not know....but how could you not!, we all knew life would not be the same for the people of christchurch....but as you say, that isn't always a negative, though the years have been hard and tough they have moulded you into a stronger and more resillient person....I think its wonderful that you continue to write about your struggles and triumphs on this blog as it gives myself and I'm sure many others food for thought for their own personal lives. xx

  9. I will never forget the September date for my own personal reasons xxx
    February I just remember arriving at school to collect my son and seeing a bunch of 5 year olds watching it on tv and thinking NO you can't let my baby watch this
    BIG love always Debxxx

  10. I remember taking the time to clean up the hot chocolate that fell over my keyboard cos I knew that the kids wouldn't be ready for me to pick them up for at least 10 minutes; downside to living a 2 minute walk from the school gate.
    I knew it was bad, even though apparently a lot of people over here didn't realise it. To me it felt worse than the September shake.
    When I picked up the boys they wanted to go straight inside, but I wouldn't let them till I'd checked for broken glass etc. I texted Dh and had to wait a good and very long 2 hours or so till I got his text asking me if I was ok. He was working in the square and was 6 floors up on the loo when it hit. His workmate saw the Cathedral come down.
    I'd managed to forget how emotional that whole time was, but then I watched the video and it all came back. I think I'll leave it for a while before I watch it again.

  11. Hugs to you Debs (and your children). I was also in Cashel Mall at the time.


Thanks so much for dropping by. I love to hear from you and I want you to know that I really appreciate each comment!!