Christchurch Shakes and Shocks

February 22nd 2011 was a scary day for Christchurch, a scary day for NZ. Mother Nature had a tummy ache and Christchurch bore the brunt of it.

This obviously has to be from a personal point of view, I really only have my own experience to share.

• 12.15pm on this Tuesday, Doug and I were sitting in the Catholic Cathedrals Presbytery having a meeting with our Priest about our wedding.
• 12.30pm we were meant to be at Metro Cafe enjoying a delicious Berry and Cream Cheese Muffin, a weekly thing if possible with my good friend Maja. 1 text message was sent to Maja asking to meet at 1pm.
• 12.25pm We arrive home from the Church.
• 12.25pm Smith and Smith are fixing the small chip in our wind screen.
• 12.26pm Doug moves car onto street to free the driveway for Smith and Smith to leave.
• 12.35pm I’m on the phone to my Mum.
• 12.40pm I’m on the phone to Global Fabrics-more wedding details.
• 12.45pm I accept a Trade Me offer to buy a Wine glass and bottle holder/bookshelf to cater to our wine glasses.
• 12.47pm I’m gathering my things ready for Doug and I to walk out the door and have coffee.
• 12.50pm Doug and I are standing in our hallway door frame watching our living room fall apart. (Including the wine glasses gathered from every place Doug’s ever worked smash into pieces.)

Chaos breaks out, I run to see if the car is alive.
Garden and driveway quickly start to fill up with water, then silt. 3 minutes later, the street has flooded… water, people and cars.
I can hear sirens from town, because the city is that close. Before the street flooded too much, we jumped into the car, which is now a foot under water, with nothing much and sat in the congestion of cars.
3 minutes to think, I said to Doug I should grab a few more things and I ran back to our house through the silt and water to grab the emergency bag we made from the last time and our passports.
Running back, I see a fellow Draper St Resident panicking. She can’t find her keys. I am adrenaline pumped, but surprisingly calm. I retrace her steps with her, she can’t think. Slowly but surely, I take her through her flooded and muddy home up to her bedroom. Success, the keys are on the bed. She doesn’t know what to do, I start grabbing clothes from her closet, she grabs her passports, chucks it in a bin and so and so forth through the house. She’s good to go, I wish her luck.

I start madly texting my family and friends a simple “U ok?” all punctuation goes out the window. Phone lines are going nuts. I didn’t hear from my Mum or from any of my family for a very long time. Too long. In the meantime, we go straight to Doug’s parents’ house, having to leave the car around the corner because congestion is crazy.
Are people doing the same thing as us? Just trying to get to people they know?

Marie-Louise (Doug’s Mum) hasn’t heard from Martin (Doug’s Dad), his phone is on the table. Not very useful. Doug wants to cycle into the city, Kilmore St to find Martin. You’re not leaving without me Doug! I go too.
‘Got your camera this time?’… ‘Got it!’

The following images are our cycle in and out of the city, an hour after the quake.

Cup Cake Parlour, Kilmore St, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

The Cupcake Parlour had a lifespan of 6 months. Their cupcakes were so good too. I hope they can start up again somewhere else sooner rather then later.

Kilmore St, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

Piko Wholefoods, Kilmore St, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

Piko was a health food store. I drove past it almost every day. Such a beautiful building that I admired everyday too.

Liquefaction, Kilmore St, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

Doug has a tough time getting through the density of the silt.

St Lukes Church, Kilmore St, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

St Lukes Anglican Church was hit hard. Like a lot of churches.

Christchurch Earthquake Feb 2011-2

This is my most intense photo that I have to share, anything before or after this won’t compare.
I had a glimpse of how it would feel being a photo journalist… it was exhilarating, adrenaline pumping… until I was screamed at by a police woman who was clearly not in the mood for people like me. Then that ‘I could be a journalist feeling’ went away fast!
To see what we saw fresh, less than an hr after the 6.3, was hard… to have a heavy aftershock and watch the buildings wobble and shake and scream with might was unreal. I didn’t want to be in there, I’m not a fool! But when there is someone you love (Martin) is out of touch and in the middle of disaster… we were the closest… and I know you would have gone in too! I know the police woman wanted to keep control and I know she’s probably dealt with too many jerks in her time.
Anyway, you see this Christchurch Resident jumping for safety away from the buildings. Soon after this, I called Doug’s Mum to find out the name of the building again to find out Martin was home. Thank goodness!

Kilmore St, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

Kilmore St, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

The devastation caused a lot of shallow breathing. This is the city I’ve grown up in. The city I couldn’t wait to leave to see the world and couldn’t wait to get home when I’d finished. The city where I met my soon to be husband. I love this city. My kids will never know the Christchurch I knew. That causes pangs in the chest.

Metro Cafe, Kilmore/Columbo St, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

My beloved Metro Cafe. This is where Doug and I should of been at 12.30pm to meet our good friend Maja, but I changed it to 1pm. Maja remained in her Sumner home on the hill, stranded. We were at home. Earthquake was at 12.50pm.
I started going to Metro with Maja when I as 18, a Multimedia student at Natcoll. I’ve taken all my friends there, I took all my clients there. Nowhere will compare with the atmosphere, the Soy Mocha in a bowl and the Berry Cream Cheese Muffin we’d call in to pre-order to make sure we had one with our coffee.

Kilmore/Columbo St, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

Kilmore/Columbo St, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

Devastation on Columbo and Kilmore Corner, facing Metro Cafe.

Fitzgerald Ave, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

Fitzgerald Ave. One of the 4 avenues boxing in the CBD. This is right behind where we live.

Fitzgerald Ave, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

Avonside Residential, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

Woodham Rd, Avonside. A 2 story house becomes 1.

Avonside Residential, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

Another home on Woodham Road, Avonside, is defaced.

Avonside Residential, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

Avonside Residential, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

Avonside Girls High.

Aranui, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

Many cars found many sink holes.

Aranui, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

Aranui, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

I fairly certain this resident didn’t ask for an uncontained swimming pool.

Aranui, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

Aranui, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

We drove by this truck on the 2nd night on the way to Mark and Laurens house. With no street lights, dodging the bumps and flooding on the road, being the only car driving slowly up the dark street and a deathly silence filling the air. Imagine seeing this truck amongst the mist (which was infact dust) sticking out of the road. Bone chilling.

Aranui, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

The home I grew up in. Mum and Dad’s house. Liquefaction cements the driveway.

Aranui, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

Day 2. The clear up begins. Who needs to go to the beach?

Aranui, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

Mum's kitchen, Aranui, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

Mum’s kitchen after the clean up. My sister was too kind in helping clean up while Mum was still at work. He has the photos of the real mess.

Mum's kitchen, Aranui, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

Dad’s handy work here. And we are back to basics.

Radio new, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

With no power, all we had was radio for the first 2-3 days (2-3 very longggg days). We sat by the radio for news all through those days. Thanks to the person who bought this handy radio for the Richardson’s for Christmas! Not being able to see what the country was seeing was a little frustrating. I couldn’t picture the Pynes Gould Cooperation building for the longest time. Then I saw the Newspaper. And kind of wish I hadn’t.

Candle light, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

What if we didn’t have technology to get us through this time?

Toasted marshmallows, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

Night 2. No power. So we enjoy the sweeter side of life with some toasted marshmallows.

Toasted marshmallows, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

I got into work on the Thursday night. I actually wanted to be at work with the normality of water, power, TV, refrigeration. Ah cold milk… there’s nothing like it. I clung to the news. Was this really happening here?!

I hugged my cellphone (nothing new there), and I could see through the wonders of Facebook that everyone was Ok. However a  friend to Doug’s sister and cousin’s wasn’t so lucky. Jaime Gilbert as you might of seen on the news will be a hero to his children for saving their aunty… forever!

We are still without power and water, but we are enjoying the simple things we take for granted, on the West Coast this weekend. I want to thank every single person, some of whom I don’t really even know for offering their home to Doug and I for some R and R. You certainly know who your friends are in the wake of a natural disaster and I think I’ve got some damn good ones!

And that’s my story. There are obviously some gaps in my story, but my neck is aching from thinking about it.

I will be running the Christchurch Marathon in June once it’s has it’s bandaids on. And fundraising for child cancer in Christchurch so the money goes into the city I love.

Take Care Christchurcher’s and Thank you New Zealand for all your support how big or little.

Love Heather xxx

  • Allison Mulder

    Hi Heather and Doug, thanks for this post and pictures, having someone we know well in the thick of things is really scary and yet at least we know what is happening there and to you all. Just relieved you are all save. Heather you are an awesome photographer you should sell this story and pictures as its “the truth” not what we read in the papers.
    Allison and Barry
    South Africa

  • Allison Mulder

    Sorry meant SAFE…my bad

  • Thank you for sharing your experience with us Heather, and those photos, reading this and looking at the pics made me cry, what a dreadful time you have all had. You are so far away, but you feel so near, and you are all in our thoughts and prayers. Love to you all …… Marion, Malcolm, Daniel and Gemma xxx

  • MamaPukeko

    Dont think you “Could be” a Journalist, YOU ARE!! That was a very heart wrenching account Heather with amazing photos as always, my Heart was thumping in my chest, not as hard as Im sure yours was at 12.50 on Tues though! We are thinking of you guys everyday! Cant get you out of my mind. Just so thankful that you are all safe & alive. Love to you both! & love to all in Christchurch! Your bravery & spirit humbles me.

  • Neboutfrance

    Thx Heather…it’s one thing to see it on TV and quite another to have a detailed account by the eyewitness you had the misfortune to be..
    It was thouroughly moving and my heart is still aching for you Christchurchers: I’ll shall share your report and pix :o)

  • Kimberley Hutton

    A chilling account of your day my dear. Incredible images… fills me with such a deep sadness. The amount of times I gasped looking through your photos… ugh. Thank you for sharing even though it is so deeply emotional and horrible for everyone up there. Thinking of you all the time! Take care xoxoox

  • A chilling account of your day my dear. Incredible images… fills me with such a deep sadness. The amount of times I gasped looking through your photos… ugh. Thank you for sharing even though it is so deeply emotional and horrible for everyone up there. Thinking of you all the time! Take care xoxoox

  • Great record
    Guess we will never ever forget it. I hoep we never relive it either.
    Fi :)

  • Its heartbreaking to look through these photos again and feel the helplessness.. surely didn’t happen here, right?

  • These are stunning, amazing, beautiful photos. I live in Auckland, New Zealand, and with the disaster in Christchurch happening right now, these definitely stirred some strong emotions…

  • Marie-Louise

    Reading your account three months after the Big Shake brings it all flooding back.  You are a very good journalist, Heather – you can evoke emotion and tell it as it was.  How about an update ?  Three months on and how things have changed – or haven’t.  Like the chemical toilets you guys are still using …  This is certainly a story to tell your grandchildren and your documentation of it will make it easy for them to understand.  Thank you.

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