20 February, 2012

22nd Feb.

It started out like any normal Tuesday morning. The cast party for Whorehouse had been the night before, so I slept in, and wagged my math lecture. I didn't have anything till 3 pm for English, so I stayed in bed for most of the morning. I remember the government was releasing its welfare reform policy that day and I was getting a bit wound up about it. There was facebooking the happy birthdays, twitter conversations with a friend in the UK, me discussing meeting up at the Foundry (the student pub) the next day with a friend, and watching Richard III on youtube.

Then the quake hit.

The first few seconds I wasn't that concerned. Just another quake, in the quake kingdom. Then it kept going. And going. I just sat there in my bed, watching things gradually start moving, the stuff falling down and off shelves, and the bookcase coming down. At this point I decided I should go get some cover, so I hid in the wardrobe at the end of the bed.

Once it stopped shaking, I tried the laptop only to find the power had gone. I updated facebook from my phone telling people I was OK, and then texted dad to tell him I was OK. Just as I'd finished my brother called to check on me, where he told me it was a lot bigger than I'd thought.

I got out and checked my flatmates were OK, then headed out to the Ilam fields to see how uni was going. I saw a man speeding back to his place, which was a good move on his part because he beat the traffic.

Ilam field was a chaotic mess of people in small groups, crying and comforting each other. It's where I heard about the building collapses, the cathedral falling, and the buses which went under the falling bricks. I had a friend texting me at that point relaying info from Whakatane, where she had a TV and was home from work. I had to kill my phone at that point because I wanted to save battery.

I headed back home and dug through my stuff till I found the miniature radio that Meridian energy had sent out to Christchurch households at the end of 2010. Over the coming days that radio tuned to National Radio was my main source of information on what was happening.

At that point my flatmates had scooted out, so I decided to head to my friend's place down by the mall. The stroll along Riccarton road was surreal. It was as close to a zombie apocalypse as I'd seen. The carparks were empty and still. Riccarton road swung wildly between hectically busy and calm.

The Narash dairy was open so I headed in there and stocked up on poweraid, V, and packets of chips. I got to Marky's, and we rode out some shocks there, and headed to another friend's place. None of us had smartphones at that point so the only place we were getting news was from the radio.

We went out scouting the neighbourhood around Riccarton Mall. We did a quick loop and headed down Rotherham street, past Borders (where we heard there were bodies, which turned out to be wrong), under the over bridge (which after we saw the the street blocked off a couple of days later was probably a silly idea) where we hit up the only functioning ATM we could find. We drew our limits out because we really didn't know when there was going to be power again.

On the way back to Marky's we saw someone trying to light a fire in one of the deep gutters that are around that area, which led to jokes about the downfall of civilisation and that he was cooking a baby.

I headed back to my place and got home at about 8ish. The street lights had started to come on, which gave me some confidence we'd have power back at my flat. I went past one of the few Chinese places still open, however they'd just run out of cooking gas, which put the kibosh on that idea.

I sat down at the computer and the full extent of what had happened hit me, the checking in of people being OK and telling friends that you were fine. A couple of mugs of tea later, bed, snatched grasps of sleep between aftershocks. The booze and the sleeping pills looking tempting as hell, but you want to make sure you've got all your faculties about you if you need them.

Emotionally it was a frantic day. The initial panic of the quake, followed up by a sense of relief. Then the unease as you hear what happened, about the destruction and deaths. Then there's the panic as you haven't heard from people, the relief as people start checking in, and then as you get home to find power is back on you take a break, because you know that tomorrow is going to throw some challenges at you you never thought you'd face.

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