12:51 P.M - Tuesday 22nd February 2011
Another dull void. Then shaking.
My eyes flash open from daydreams, and my fingers wrap around the seat in front of me. The bus sways violently. My grip tightens as my mind tries to process what's happening. I am cast sideways by a wild and powerful force.
An ominous crack comes from outside, and my head turns to the window. They sky is grey. Trees are shaking, buildings are shaking; a woman struggles for balance on the footpath. On her face is pure horror, but I can't hear the screams from her mouth. A loud rumble dominates my hearing.
Then it hits me: an earthquake.
But as I realise what it is, the shaking stops. … Time stops. … Life stops. I can't know that these moments have been the last for probably hundreds. … The world pauses – the spinning of the Earth ceases for a second. An emptiness floods through the bus.
Suddenly we return from black and white. Hearts begin to beat again, faster than ever. Blood pumps. Lungs fill with air. On the bus, we all look around at each other, wide eyed and in disbelief. “That was huge,” says the girl across from me. I nod slowly, and more voices begin to fade in. “Short, but huge.” Everyone is texting or calling their family and friends. My phone was stolen recently, so I can only hope that everyone I know is alright. I simply stare out the window as the halted bus sets off again.
After a few hundred metres, I am perplexed.
“Did that just happen?” I ask the boy next to me, motioning to a fallen brick fence.
“I don't know,” he says. “It could have.”
I examine the damage. “I don't remember it being like that this morning.”
He shrugs, and I knit my brow in confusion. But soon, there can only be one answer. Shattered windows, broken pipes, cracked roads. This was worse than we had thought.
I hold my hand to my head as I see everything we had restored and repaired over the last five months destroyed. Silt is flooded through homes and gardens. An elderly woman observes the scene from her deck with dread. Another woman is crying on the phone, standing on several inches of sand and water, still in her dressing gown.
A feeling of disgust sweeps through me. This isn't possible. This can't be happening. Christchurch has beaten earthquakes. We've made it through. But somehow, I know in my heart and mind that it is happening. I don't know how, but old wounds have been reopened, and a devastating past has come back to haunt us.
And as I get off the bus near my house, a million thoughts are running through my head. I look up in desperation, but the sky is still overcast. There will be no starry night tonight, no enchanting panorama and no comfort from the heavens.
But then, in a single moment, I catch a glimpse of sunlight through the clouds.
There is hope.