Home' Advocate Communications : Fiordland Advocate 10 March 2011 Contents LOCAL FEATURE
10 March, 2011 | Page 7
I didn't feel the earthquake. I was
in a car with workmates returning
from Hororata. The first I heard
was when my sister texted to ask if
I was okay. The trip back to the city
became increasingly sombre as
we listened to the radio and tried
to contact family.
As we got into the city it became
clearer. Traffic was chaotic.
Everyday citizens had put on high-
vis vests and were directing traffic
at major intersections -- including
one lady with a handbag over her
shoulder! Three hours later we
got to the office in Opawa. We
got out water and first aid kits
then headed home. I went back
to Sumner with my boss; I didn't
want to drive. Most houses were
damaged, boulders across roads,
people walking, biking, running,
hugging, crying. We took the
Summit Road home, deserted
and eerie. After checking out the
boss's place I started walking
Seeing the cliff that had calved
off and crushed the RSA, cracks
through roads, buildings barely
standing. Walking along Main
Road on my own heading towards
my home on the hill. Iconic Shag
Rock was now a stump. Cliffs
precariously close to the edge. As I
got closer to our place I could see
that part of our section was gone.
Until then it hadn't really occurred
to me that I might not have a place
to go home to.
At the bottom of our steps I
climbed over fallen rocks and
negotiated running water and mud
from the neighbour's pool. I still
feel sick thinking about that walk
up the steps. I always enjoyed the
walk up the 150 steps through
gardens to my home on Main
Road; looking over the estuary,
suburbs and alps. It should have
been like any other day. It was
quiet except for the water, and
very still. No one else was around.
Retaining walls were buckling. At
our place I saw broken windows,
and I could see the sky through
the roof. The attic and chimney
had fallen through the lounge.
The retaining wall that our house
was built against was cracked and
bulging. I knew I couldn't go in
and I knew that I'd never live there
again; potentially I may not get my
What was I going to do? I trekked
back down to the road and sat
down on a bench to think, it's very
unusual to feel alone, but this is
how I felt. But I was raised to be
strong, resourceful and adaptable.
I knew in my heart that I wanted
my things back, but if not that's
fine; all I need I possess within,
everything else is replaceable. I
stuck out my thumb and hitched a
ride to work to get my car.
That night I stayed with a friend. I
crawled into bed glad to be alive
and safe, but horrified at the
turn life had taken in the space
of a day. It was a horrible night,
I lay there on my own and cried.
Aftershocks came every few
minutes. I didn't run for the door,
I was exhausted and didn't care
anymore. It was a nightmare we
couldn't escape. I lay awake
planning my retrieval mission
should I get back into the
In the morning I went home
with one of my flatmates.
We talked about our escape
route and that we each had
to decide what level of risk
we were prepared to take. I
felt sick but knew this was
my one chance. I climbed in
through my bedroom window
to a scene of chaos. Some
would rightly say that it
wouldn't have looked much
different to usual! The plaster
on the walls had come off
so everything was covered
in dust. It didn't take long to
throw everything into packs
and boxes and fire it out the
I got brave and went into the
kitchen. I found some apricot
jam I had made -- still sealed,
"sweet victory" my cousin
called it. If we had been in the
lounge at the time we would most
likely be dead as we would not
have reached the door before the
chimney and attic collapsed. I still
get very sad and cry when I think
about these things. I don't think
about better times, it's too hard.
Those times seem fantastical and
I said a sad goodbye to my
flatmate on the road in the mud.
People I knew and loved; we
woke up together that morning
not knowing it would be our last.
I left Christchurch with my life in
my car and went to Timaru. Last
week I returned to Christchurch
before flying to Auckland for work.
As I write this I am looking forward
to returning to our broken but
hopeful city in a few days.
As for the future, it's one day at a
time. Whether we've lost a little or
a lot the reality is that for each of
us in Christchurch that day life has
changed forever. The path ahead
for me includes a time of grieving
for what I had; a sense of security,
a place of peace, a time to laugh.
That sense, those places and
times will recreate themselves in
new ways, but for now it's okay to
be sad and it's okay to cry.
Thank you for your care and
concern for me and all of those
who have been affected. I've never
experienced anything like it, in so
The day that life changed -- This is my story
Scenes like this greeted Madeleine Peacock as she made her way back into Christchurch.
The destruction wreaked on Madeleine Peacock's Christchurch home by the
February 22 earthquake.
Madeleine Peacock grew up in Te Anau and
still considers it "home". She recently moved to
Christchurch for work. This is an abridged version of
an email she sent to friends and family following the
February 22 earthquake.
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