if tomorrow never comes – an earthquake story

Backdated – 5 September 2010, a day after the 7.1 Earthquake in Christchurch, NZ.

I’ve had a really emotional couple of weeks. So much has happened that it’s been really difficult to figure out, where I am, and what I want. I still don’t really know. I feel like I’m at this crossroad, but I’m so indecisive, that I don’t know which way to go. I could probably stand here forever, looking down the three other roads, and turning around wondering if I should go back the way I came. Several things shifted my mood this week. I’ve had masses of online drama. I got a job teaching, which to be honest, I’d given up on and found it really amazing, and then, this earthquake.

We were hit by an earthquake the size of the one that hit Haiti. 230,000 people died in that earthquake. Not one person died here. Not one. Obviously, the differences are huge. We’re not a poor country, and we’ve been preparing for ‘the big one’ for pretty much our whole lives. Ever since I can remember we’ve had ads on the tv preparing us for earthquakes…and this one? It was massive, but they’re saying it’s not New Zealand’s ‘big one’.  We’ve had big earthquakes before, and we’ve lost people to them..a lot of people. I am, very aware of just how lucky Christchurch is. Very aware.

One thing it has pushed home for me, is that there are some things that are just not worth my time. I fell all around my bedroom at 4.30am yesterday morning trying to find some pants because I sleep half naked and I was far more concerned with not dying until I had my arse covered than I was at getting into a door frame. I couldn’t stand up, I kept falling over and everything was so black and so disorientating that it was hard to know which way was out of the bedroom anyway. I finally found pants and a dressing gown, but I couldn’t figure out where the sleeves of it were. By the time I got into the door frame, the entire thing was almost over.

My initial thoughts were “GET ALEEYA!” And “oh my god, Siobhan.” I can tell you now that I cannot imagine going to bed in only a teeshirt ever again. I certainly don’t imagine sleeping naked will be high on my list of priorities for a long, long time. The only thing that really worried me was not being prepared enough to be able to protect my kids. I kept thinking “is this it? Is this the one? Are we going to get out of this alive?” I wasn’t worried for myself at all. In fact, I felt incredibly calm. I know a lot of people were freaking out, but this sort of thing, there’s nothing you can do, I just don’t see the point in panicking. I don’t panic…at least, not until I know the situation is well and truly over, and I’ve had time to think about what could have happened. Right now, I think I’m still a little shell shocked. It’s life as normal here. I’m distracting myself by carrying on. I’m online, I’m watching tv…we’ve had family here, we have the MIL staying.

The aftershocks are becoming almost normal. It’s like I’m just waiting for them, but they don’t worry me. I’ve had time to think about the way I handled things, the people I contacted first, the people I thought about while my world turned upside down and I wondered if I’d ever see them, or get to speak to them again. Initially, I just needed to feel Aleeya in my arms, to hold her against me and tell her it was all okay. I needed to know that Siobhan was safe, even though she wasn’t with us, and I needed to tell people that we were okay.

Now that it’s over, or semi over, and I’ve had time to think…I’ve realised that there are so many things that I worry about every single day, that don’t mean a thing. I’ve often wondered if I’m really living my life to the best ability that I can, and I know now that I’m not. I know that if I had died yesterday, I wouldn’t have been happy with the way I’d left things. I’ve realised that if I don’t actually take control of my life and really live it, I’m going to miss out on so many things. So many experiences. It’s an incredibly humbling thing, to be tossed around your house in the pitch black and to not know if your kids are going to make it. To wonder if the child you sent off with her friend that previous afternoon is safe. To hope that, that child’s parents take care of her as if she was one of their own. To not know if you’ll ever see her again, and to wonder if you’ve done everything you could as a parent, to keep her safe. What was the last thing you said to each other? Did you pay attention when she spoke? Did you give her the love she deserves? Did you tell her you loved her?

I’ve had arguments and fights with people I love, and I am so, so grateful that I had managed to smooth those relationships out before this happened. If this had been the moment we didn’t make it through, and I hadn’t apologised for the awful things I’d said? That’s how I’d have been remembered, and my god that devastates me. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the past few days. I don’t like a lot of what I’ve learned, I really don’t, and I’ve also learned a lot about the people around me.

Our next door neighbours who we’ve never spent any time getting to know, came over in the morning to check on us. They invited us over, set up a caravan and made us hot drinks and toast and took us in while we had no power. They made sure we were going to be okay, offered us wood, tools, ladders, everything we might possibly need, who made sure we knew what was going on because we had no batteries, and therefore no access to any news whatsoever. Without them, we would have had no real idea of how bad the damage around the city truly was. They treated us like we were their own family, even though it was the first time, in the almost three years that we’ve lived here, that we even swapped names.

Since then, we’ve had more than 3000 aftershocks, most of them 3’s and above. Just a couple of days ago we had a 4.9. It’s incredibly unsettling and at times quite traumatic to still be having these quakes two months after the big one.

And since then, we had the February 22, 2011 quakes which almost took Ollie’s life.  That’s another post, for another day. 

3 thoughts on “if tomorrow never comes – an earthquake story

  1. Hi Kelly I was so choked up reading that how terrified you must have felt for your little ones. Thank god you all came through it and it sounds like you are feeling better about you because of it. I hope things are more settled down now and you don’t get another one like that one again hugs .

  2. Yep,, It will stop eventually,,
    when Christchurch becomes its own island,
    HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!
    Dont worry,,,, Be Happy….

  3. thank you Collette! It was an awful feeling, but good things came out of it too.

    Weeee! I’m getting so old! But I’ve been totally spoiled, so it’s okay! xoxo

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