Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tuesday 22nd February 2011: 12.51 pm

I have so many things going on in my head right now and I really feel I need to get this all down so let's try. I will start with what happened for me and I'll put pictures I've taken from news sites of things that we actually saw as we walked through town.

I had arrived back from Australia just after midnight on Monday night and was at work as normal. I work on the 4th floor of a building in town, opposite the hospital. I hadn't had anything to eat yet and was in the process of making some lunch and I'd gone to the office of one of the girls when it hit. Dee and I were both standing and grabbed each other but were thrown apart, she hit the wall and I hit a glass panel the size of a door. Fortunately the glass didn't break. I hit my head and my knee quite hard but didn't really think about it at the time. I did know I had to get my phone and shoes (yes I had bare feet, this is not a time for a discussion on workplace fashion) before I got out of the building. I went to my office, the door was closed and I couldn't open it much because everything was on the floor but I got it open enough to find my phone and bag and shoes (but forgot my ipad!!). Everyone was doing the same, getting what they needed and heading out of the building.

Out on the street there were large cracks in the footpath but they were minor to what I would see as I got further into town. We were all absolutely in shock, many crying, all shaking, some bleeding from injuries. I got a text off to my immediate family and heard from my sister Deb first. She said she was ok but she asked me to find her 2 oldest kids (Chrissy and James). They both attend a school that is located in Cashel Mall. I told Dee I was going and ran up Oxford Tce. Traffic was at a stand still and when I got to beside the primary school (St Michaels I think) the 5.7 aftershock hit. It was so frightening. I just froze and waited for it to stop. All the kids were screaming in the school.

I headed to Cashel Mall as I didn't know which direction they would go to evacuate the school. Buildings were down the whole way, people were trying to rescue others, people were crying, bleeding, there was already a body on the footpath. I wanted to stop and help but was focused on getting to the kids. When I reached the other end of Cashel Mall I started stopping and asking kids if they were from Unlimited. None were but a man told me they'd been evacuated to Latimer Square.

I continued past the Hotel Grand Chancellor (which is currently looking like it will collapse, note the warping in middle at the top) and then up Cashel Street to where the CTV building had collapsed (I walked past where the people are gathered at the bottom of the picture.

It was unreal, just a small part of the building remained and there was a large fire and loads of people on the rubble trying to get others out. The street to Latimer Square had just been closed so I had to keep going up the road. I kept asking for Chrissy and James but no one knew. I went through a car yard and then back down Hereford to Latimer. There were hundreds of people there and some girls knew who Chrissy and James were but not where they were. I kept going through the crowd and turned around and there was Chrissy. It was so good to see her. A random lady was looking after her and we just held each other and cried. I told the lady who I was and that I'd take Chrissy, I thanked her and asked if we could do anything for her but she was fine.
We went to where Unlimited was meeting and kept looking for James. I managed to get a call through to him and he was at a business on the other side of the CBD by my work. A teacher was trying to organise the kids so I went to him and asked if I could take Chrissy. I gave him her name and said I'd been in touch with James and he was ok. He took their names and we left the park.

We tried to go up Worcester Street but were sent back due to gas leaks. We went along a block and managed to get through Gloucester Street. We stayed in the middle of the road as much as we could and I tried to keep Chrissy from looking around. We passed cars that were flattened, people in utes taking injured to hospital, collapsed buildings, we crossed massive cracks in the road and liquefaction and water, I don't think we'll remember it all but that's a good thing. I kept trying to text people, I needed to know that people were ok and for Deb and Dave to know I'd found the kids and they were ok.

Seeing the Cathedral practically destroyed was a pretty emotional point, it's such an icon of Christchurch.

We finally got to where James was, needless to say there were more hugs and tears but mostly shocked quiet words and comparing of stories and information. James had some friends with him and we all sat together and waited for David to arrive. We soon figured out that wasn't going to happen due to the traffic (and the van running out of petrol!). We decided that Chrissy, James and Jonty would come with me to find my car and try and get out and the other kids would go with the parent of 2 of them.

We walked past my work, making our way through more silt and water and cracks in the road
. Buildings had broken windows, cracks, some had been taped off already. At one point I got the kids to walk on the sidewalk not the road as there were wires coming out of the road that could have been power lines. When we were doing that there was another really large earthquake and we ran into the middle of the road and crouched by the cars.

We got to my carpark and I got the kids to wait on the road in the open, my car was ok but there was a chimney in the carpark next to it. I moved my car to out by the road and we discussed if we should walk or drive. We decided to try driving but only made it half a block in probably half an hour or more so decided to park and walk. At Moorhouse Ave Jonty's mum was in her car coming to find him.

Chrissy James and I continued walking. We got to Brougham and turned left to go to their place. It was definitely faster to walk than drive. A lady stopped us and got her to send a text to her daughter to tell her she was coming home. She had to walk to Aranui. We knew David was close but kept walking as we didn't know if he would get out of traffic before we got home. We finally met at the Ensors Road/Opawa Road roundabout. Getting the kids home was a relief. It wasn't the end of my getting home but it was such a relief to get the kids to their home. I had a look through their house which was a complete mess, gave Annie Rose a cuddle, lots of hugs and tears for everyone else. I took one of their bikes and biked home. No road was clear, traffic, liquefaction and just mounds in the road from damage.

I was exhausted when I got home. It was about 5 pm and I hadn't yet eaten all day. We'd walked for hours, we'd worried, we'd cried, we'd run to get away from aftershocks, we'd all seen dead people. I'm not sure I'd ever cried like that before.

But that's not even the end of the story. We've had dozens of aftershocks, 40 of them have been over 4.0, some over 5. We got power back at about 10 pm, still no water or sewage. We've cleaned up a bit of the back yard but not all of it. Odette has gone to Timaru, we are flying to Auckland tomorrow. I'm not sure if leaving is the best idea but we know we can't stay here with the aftershocks and no water etc.

A question we are all asking ourselves is where do we go from here? How does Christchurch recover from this? We've lost infrastructure, buildings, people. And more personally, how do we get through this. How do I face going back into my work building? How do we walk or drive around Christchurch and not think about it? How do we ever feel safe again? Will we need to go to funerals next week? I feel lost as I think a lot of people here do. Let's hope a few days break in Auckland will help get our heads around this.


Deb said...

Jo you were an absolute hero to me that day, it was amazing. thanks so much for getting my kids xxx

Danielle said...

Far out Jo. What a horrific day for you! There were so many different experiences on that day. Being in the town centre and seeing what you saw while frantically searching for your neice and nephew must have been absolutely terrifying. I hope that you are recovering okay and that with time you manage to answer all the questions that are worrying you. In the mean time be kind to yourself you have been through a lot. Love and best wishes, Danielle.