The Christchurch Earthquake was three days ago now. I was in the bar talking to Dad on the phone when he said “fuck that’s a big one…” and the line went dead as bottles started coming off the wall and the ceiling came in. I ran outside and stood under the lintel at the front door as people ran for their lives, falling and trampling over one another as what remained of Haagen’s building came down around us.
Then it stopped. People were lying in the road and with every aftershock, the streets filled with shrieking as people hugged and wondered what to do. People were being dragged out of all the old brick buildings and heading away from those that still stood, teetering and waiting to kill those who had survived.
I realised I didn’t know where I was going or what I was doing and ran back to the bar and grabbed the Yamaha Trials bike as I figured it might be the best transport to get-the-fuck-outa-there. I headed to Anna’s house as she has been the most spooked by the quakes and figured she might need some help with the kids. When I got there, she had already gone and her street was waist deep in water. So I vomited in her garden and headed to Mum and Dad’s.
The bridges were closed and the streets full of people desperately trying to flee the city, sitting bumper to bumper as the sewage ran down the streets. The wee bike did itself proud as I skipped around everybody, no helmet, no warrant, no rego and the cops not even glancing in my direction.
When I got to Warrington, I had a horrible break-down and realised I had been alone since the quake, and had not really spoken with anyone. There was my mum, ready with a hug which made me break down uncontrollably, thinking about the people that had been standing in those spots where I stood every day and were now lying dead in the rubble. I don’t know if I have cried like that since I was a kid, but it didn’t stop for over an hour until Juliet showed up and cuddled me until I felt better. Disaster is good for helping you realise who is important to you.
We began to think about how we were going to get along over the coming days as the refugees began arriving. Garry and Pam’s house took on its traditional role as a Marae and beds were made all over the place. Tim and Rose and all their friends arrived and we cried and sat around listening to National Radio.
When Garry and Pam’s house filled up, Juliet and I headed to Malcolm and Trudi’s house in Ashburton to take up their kind offer of a house with a shower and a bed. We have been really touched by the way they have taken us in, fed us, given us booze, let us chain-smoke on their front porch and generally tip-toe around as we watch the news and cry like babies. Anna and Greg are here with the kids and Tim is running the Warrington St. drop-in centre. Rosie has vacated to Dunedin where she has gained a Valium prescription and is staying with our auntie.
This time, at the moment when I thought I might die, I was much more at ease. Since the September quake I have finished my novel and gotten engaged to my beautiful girlfriend Juliet. So, as the world came in around me I thought “well, at least I did those things I said I was going to do after the last one…”
I don’t have any photos because both my cameras were smashed and I can’t get into my house or my business. I also feel sick seeing the destruction this time and feel less inclined to consider the golden section through a viewfinder when I should really be shovelling silt and helping out.
Goodbye Blue Monday is closed until further notice. We have no idea what the outcome will be, but at the moment are firmly of the belief that the cordons should stay up until the city is safe and the bodies dealt with in a respectful way. This has been truly horrible for everyone but we have all come through this. Our sincerest condolences to the families of all those who have died or are missing, we wake up crying in the night and can only imagine how horrible this whole thing has been for you.
Look after one another and don’t forget to tell your family and friends that you love them before it is too late…