Remembering the Christchurch earthquake

Originally published in 2016

At 12.51pm on the 22nd of February 2011, the unthinkable happened. Christchurch, New Zealand’s second largest city was hit by a devastating 6.3 magnitude earthquake that resulted in the loss of 185 lives and forever changed the lives of so many more.

Often referred to as New Zealand’s darkest day, it truly is a date that will forever be etched into the memories of all Cantabrians and many across our nation, as the day the earth roared. Ten years on, we look back at some of the stories from Kidspot parents from that day and beyond.

Where were you?

“It was our son’s first birthday that day so we had gone to Orana Wildlife park in Christchurch to celebrate. We were just waiting for the farmyard feeding time when the earthquake rumbled through. We knew it was big because it was the only quake we had ever felt outside.. We were moved into the kea house while the fences around the tigers and lions were checked. We left soon after and spent the afternoon crying in front of the TV. Thankfully we had changed our plans from going to the aquarium in Catherdral Square at the last minute to Orana Park.” HannahD

I’d been swimming at Pioneer Swimming baths with my son who was then 10 months old. Luckily a friend phoned me the night before and made me feel guilty so we went there for lunch (Somerfield area). We’d had lunch and were heading home, I’d just buckled my son up in the car seat and went inside the house to put an apple core in the bin. My friend had just gone to her veggie garden to pick a few bits for me to take home. Her son then 3 years old was sat in front of the big tv. The house then started shaking. I picked [the] 3 year old up and sat him on the couch and hunched over him. Items were falling off the wall hitting me. I couldn’t get outside to see if my son was ok. Worse feeling ever – feeling so helpless and not knowing whether he was ok. As soon as it died down I picked up [the] 3 year old and made sure the car was ok – thankfully my son was ok – phew. I managed to ring my husband who was at work in the City Centre based next to Cashel Mall. We both said we’d head to my other sons nursery back in Parklands. Luckily husband was on his bike so he managed to get my 2 year old from nursery within the hour and report back that he was ok. It took me over 2 1/2 hours to do a 30 minute journey.  Liquification all in our street so had to walk some of the way home. So glad we weren’t at home as everything came down – cupboards, TV’s, etc. I dread to think [what] could of happened. House is a rebuild but this just makes you realise what is important and what doesn’t really matter. I am just so sorry that other people weren’t as fortunate.” Sparky

“I am SOOOOO thankful I was NOT at home, not sure if I or bubs would have been ok. It all happened so fast and our house is relatively close to lyttelton so I hate to think how violent it was at home. I met my hubby for lunch that day – that never happens. We were in a flooring shop and William in the stroller asleep. I had txt him earlier to ask if we could meet earlier than planned – he said yes. We held onto each other in the middle, trying to dodge falling 100kg rolls of lino. They were chained to the wall but it was ripped out. William slept thru it again, just like the last big one. I pulled my phone out and told the man in the shop it was 12.51pm. My 1st thought was “where are the children?” I knew it was lunchtime so they would be outside at school, but inside for kindy. My poor boy saw so much happen inside, and the evac area they gathered started to flood and fill with silt.” Read more from Gillymama’s blog.

Aftershocks and more aftershocks

The quake in February 2011 was by no means the last time the earth shook in the Canterbury region. Since then there have been thousands of aftershocks.

“December 23rd was a Friday. The kids always go to grandma’s on a Friday so I cheerfully carted them over anticipating a day doing all those last minute pre-christmas jobs in peace. While I was having a cuppa with her the phone rang and I could tell from mum’s face it was bad news. Her brother had died in a fall in the early hours of that morning. We spent the morning ringing around family and friends breaking the news, and family began to collect at her house. Then all hell broke loose again. We could hear that awful growling rumble for a couple of seconds before the shaking so we knew it would be a bad one. I was running down the hall to find the kids before it actually started. Aunties were screaming, things falling, a bookcase (that had been secured) fell, brick work cracked and broke. And then it happened again. And again. And then I came home and picked everything up at my place. It was the worst day in over a year of bad days.” Ekubo

Redefining normal

Everyday life changed, even for those who avoided bad damage to their homes or personal loss:

“From a personal perspective, i dont go to the movies, my heart leaps at strange noises and my fingers tingle, if i park in a parking building i tell someone that i am doing that in case i get squashed if it comes down, i dont ever park in our garage until i have all my kids at home (in case power out and cant get door open).” Christchurchmum

“It impacts on every small part of your life, even here in the relatively unaffected northern suburbs. I check constantly to make sure the lid is down on the loo because the bowl empties all over the floor when there’s a shock over about 5.5. My pantry is rearranged according to what might fall and what it might land on and break. I compulsively check for exits, won’t park unless it’s on the ground with nothing overhead. Whenever I go out I factor in whether there are bridges and how long it will take me to get back to school if there’s a quake. Ekubo

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