4:36 A.M - Saturday 4th September 2010
My eyes flashed open and I embraced the dull void of the night. For several moments, awareness struggled to seep into my mind, and I lay still in my bed. A strange feeling of emptiness seemed to fill the house. Then suddenly, I realised what was occurring.
The house was shaking. A violent wind rocked it from side to side – only, after another handful of seconds, when the shaking did not stop, I realised it wasn't the wind.
It was an earthquake.
* * *
That was over five months ago. That piece there is an excerpt from something I wrote which was published in The Press, the main newspaper of Christchurch.
The September 4th Earthquake was 7.1 on the Richter Scale, and sent my city into survival mode. It was devastating, traumatising, and uncontrollably powerful; for those who have never experienced an earthquake, there really aren't any words to describe it. But when you feel it, you know immediately that you are small and helpless, and that the force of nature is wild and mighty.
The streets cracked:
Buildings were torn down:
And silt flooded up to the surface. It was a miracle that no-one was killed.
But Mother Nature wasn't done yet. Just when we thought it was all over, that the aftershocks were beginning to die away for good, the worst happened.
On Tuesday, 22 February 2011, we had another BIG ONE.
At 6.3 on the Richter Scale, it doesn't seem as big, but it was shallower and closer to Christchurch, and during the day. That's a deadly combination: the death toll is at 103, and rising.
This really is much worse than last September.
* * *
I was on the bus at 12:51 P.M. School had finished early due to a Teachers' Union meeting. Little did I know that old wounds were about to be reopened, lives claimed, and the city badly damaged.
Then it hit.
Long story short, I got home, having realised that this wasn't just another mundane aftershock. I was freaking out. I was dreading the future. I had no idea how we would get through this time. We were in survival mode again. No power, no water, no sewerage, nothing. And the house was an absolute mess.
The dining room:
The bookshelf (this is also the entrances to my bedroom and my brother's, which are identical):
Then the lounge. Before I show you the picture, there's a story behind this one that I need to tell you. In the midst of darkness and destruction and devastation, there was one funny thing.
Twenty years ago when my parents got married, they were given a beautiful blue vase. Mum never got it out until two years ago, because she was afraid that with three boys (playfights, playing cricket inside, etc) it would never survive. So she put the vase on top of the big TV cabinet next to the radio speakers.
When the 4 September Earthquake struck, the speakers fell off, DVDs tumbled from their places, and it was a mess.
But the blue vase survived. Somehow.
There it was, just sitting there. Sitting there, still on the cabinet.
When Tuesday's earthquake hit, I came home to the strangest sight. The cabinet was on a lean, kept upright only by the cords from the DVD and video players that were plugged into the wall. The speakers were down and the TV had face-planted. Guess what happened to the vase.
No one touched it. From the top of the cabinet (not even in the photo), that is how it landed.
Blue Vase: 2
* * *
But anyway, to the people of Christchurch: kia kaha. Be strong.
We'll get through this.