This post is difficult for me to write – I have been trying for some days now, but it has been much too emotional. Today I had some excellent news about the safety of friends, so now it is time to write the post.

Some readers who have followed my blog may know that until very recently, I was living in Christchurch, New Zealand. I moved there from Australia 6 years ago, and settled into one of the most multicultural, friendly, lively, quirky and beautiful cities in the world.

In July of last year my son died and I returned to Australia to bury him. I then went back to Christchurch with the intent of seeing out the year and then making a permanent return to Australia. Shortly after my return to New Zealand, Christchurch suffered a magnitude 7.1 earthquake, situated about 30kms out of town and at about 15kms deep. Aside from being a terrifying experience with significant damage, we were all so relieved that no one was killed. We gratefully listened to the experts tell us that we should give thanks that this ‘quake had not occurred at lunchtime, or else people would have been killed. We had a huge open air concert in Hagley Park, to thank the people of Christchurch for pulling together during this time. To my horror, I have a t- shirt emblazoned with “I survived the Christchurch Earthquake”.

The months leading up to my return to Australia were dreadful. Besides the grief for my child, the aftershocks continued, maxing out at 5.1. This meant endless sleepless nights, panic attacks and watching damage increase with each aftershock. Many people expressed the opinion that another was surely due, the ‘killer quake’. I knew quite a number of people trying to sell their properties to make the move to Australia, where the land is old and stable (mostly). I just wanted to go, and convinced myself the only reason was to be with my family in Australia. A 5.1 aftershock in late October had me in hysterics as I raced out of the building, oblivious to calls to take shelter under my desk.

As you now know, the killer quake came, with a vengeance, and at lunchtime. Although smaller in magnitude – 6.3 – it was centred in the city at a depth of 4kms. I have spent this week tracking down friends and colleagues. My former work place was successfully evacuated with no lives lost, although the building will probably be demolished. The house where I first lived on moving to Christchurch is now in the Avon River, along with the rest of the street. The streets where I walked at lunchtime in the city are now open air morgues for those people who so terribly lost their lives. The stench is bad.

Some who took shelter under their desks died, some did not. Some who raced out of buildings died, some did not. There doesn’t seem to be any good rule as to what to do in an earthquake to survive. It’s the luck of the draw. Today I received an email from a dear friend – he was my rock after my son’s death, and I have been sick with worry about him, unable to contact by phone. His street, indeed whole suburb has been declared ‘unlivable’ so I had no means to contact. His email reads in part:

Was at a car sales in town nearly crushed between cars but got out, 2 buildings came down right in front of me on ferry road by AMI stadium, my car ok, saw Mr Pickwicks on Fitzgerald Ave come down as I drove past, bridge at Kilmore buckled but got over it, people walking in a daze all over the roads had to brake to miss them, took hour and a half to drive home normally 15 mins, my house is a right off but still there, no power or water, didnt come to work on nites, packing up house slowly, every thing on floor other than 50 inch tv and freezer,qe2 pool fucked so are roads,stuff all damage over hornby way,took 3 days to get gas,eastern suburbs forgotten by Bob Parker(asshole),dont know if your stuff in lock up is ok will know when guy gets back from ozzie this week, grandma died on saturday morning so shes getting buried on Friday,so all family coming from ozzie when you coming to nz when,

He also tells me that as the streets in his suburb have no lighting it is dangerous to go outside at night – looters apparently have no fear.

On a good note, my dear friend Sophie from Sophie’s Cafe has re-opened, but with a greatly reduced menu. I’m just so thrilled she is up and running. This is her message to customers

I’m usually the strongest person but after all the devastation around me this ,has had a huge effect on both myself the children and Staff…
we would like to Thank all Customers for all your love and support …i have been at the cafe everynite ..if you need milk or anything knock on door or even come and say HI ,Huddy n i’ll make u a cuppa

Just to let you all know i am a fighter not a Quitter ..whateva the case may be staff and customer safety is 1st

Sophie walked for hours across the city looking for her daughters, who she found and brought home.

I’ve heard heartbreaking stories of people I know or have seen on a day to day basis – the bus driver killed when a building fell on the bus, the local fish and chippy owner whose newly purchased shop fell on her, the local tattoo artist killed by falling masonry – terrible events along with thousands of others, that will scar the city forever.

A good portion of the central city CBD will be pulled down, probably close to 80%. Christchurch will be rebuilt, but will be a different place. I am so grateful to have been able to see it when I did, before catastrophe ruined this beautiful place.

I now realise why I left Christchurch just a few short weeks ago. As my plane taxied up the runway to take off, a huge sense of relief overwhelmed me, that never again would I have nights awaking in terror from an aftershock, never again would I have to walk through the city looking at the tops of buildings to see if they wobbled, never again would I sleep fully clothed ready to bolt, never again would I feel the constant fear night and day. I would be safe in Australia. I left because I was afraid.

Through this emotional and personally distressing past week, I have come to a realisation. I am no longer afraid, and I am going back to Christchurch. There is much to be done.

My Christchurch

Sophie’s Cafe – my favourite seat is the blue chair nearest to camera

My Christchurch

The iconic Carlton Bar, directly opposite Sophie’s

My Christchurch

Methodist Church, opposite corner of intersection

My Christchurch

This speaks for itself

My Christchurch

Sophie has this sign at the door to her cafe

There are many appeals for funds for Christchurch. I’m sure you have seen them, along with a Secondlife fundraiser event. If you feel you want to donate to them, please do. Today, the NZ government announced The Christchurch Earthquake Appeal, a global site where you can donate with credit card. Please consider this – receipts for tax purposes are available.

A good reference is this Christchurch Earthquake Map which will show you well over 4,000 aftershocks before the most recent earthquake. Tick the box to show the stickys to get a clearer picture, but remember it takes a while to load.

Photos from a local can be seen here

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