Thursday, March 21, 2013

A nudge out the door...

Ever since I moved to Canada in January 2012 I wanted to start writing a blog, somewhere to share stories and experiences that I had while climbing in Canada and there after. It is now fourteen months later and I have finally gotten around to it. I decided to write my first blog entry about the earthquake that shook Christchurch, as the events that took place that day were, after all, the main catalyst for me moving to Canada. Here is a brief account of that day...

Tuesday, 22nd of February 2011 started out what I thought would end up like any other day. I woke, fired up the laptop for the routine Facebook & Email check and started the liquid Drum & Bass playing to help motivate one through the arduous tasks of eating breakfast, brewing a french press and brushing teeth. Normally I would jump on my trusty steed (Simple commuter bike) and ride 6km's to work but this week I had been graciously offered a loan of a small convertible sports car in exchange for feeding my friends cat, indie. Work was Bivouac Outdoor, a New Zealand owned outdoor clothing and equipment company. Day to day involved consuming copious amounts of coffee and talking climbing gear to the people that walked through the door. Although the  familiarity of the morning routine lured me into assuming it was just another day in the shop things were about to change forever.

 At 12:51PM a earthquake measuring 6.3 in magnitude on the Richter scale shook Christchurch, destroying hundreds of buildings, killing 185 people & oozing 400,000 tonnes of silt up through the ground. I was standing on the floor of the shop chatting away when the quake hit, I was instantly thrown to the ground a few metres to my right, luckily landing next to a giant concrete pillar, a structural safe zone if there was one to be found. The shop looked like something out of a harry potter movie. Head-torches, power bars, ice axes, shoes, walking poles all flying through the air. Heavy stands of equipment crashing down around customers. As if things were not epic enough the 3 metre tall wall of windows that comprised the front of the shop decided to explode inwards, propelling a wall of broken glass into the shop. I think we had about six customers in the store and five staff members working, luckily no one was hurt. I ran out into the street to see buildings collapse on busy streets, awnings collapse onto unsuspecting people exiting stores and clouds of dust and smoke enveloping crowds of people.

It was utter Chaos, humbling, intensely surreal yet oddly calming. I fell into a mind state like one does when they are in a bad situation climbing, when the consequence of  a tiny mistake could be potentially fatal and the need to focus with every ounce of their being in order to survive is an absolute must. It was a whirlwind of emotions but somehow I found the clarity I needed to do what I felt was right. After quickly talking with fellow workers and customers in the shop and ascertaining that everyone was "Ok" I ran across the road to where my girlfriend at the time was working and made sure she was alright. Understandably shaken but uninjured she took her dad and left the CBD, along with the majority of people who were down town when mother earth decided to shake.

The events that took place over the next 12 hours were some of the most unique and humbling moments I have ever experienced, from trying to keep a woman awake by inflicting pain to her finger tips, talking to her and monitoring her heart rate, to helping extinguish and search a collapsed building where 115 people lost their lives. After spending the remainder of the day in the CBD aiding emergency services wherever possible I walked home the 6km's I would normally ride through liquefaction (silt) to my beloved share house where I lived with close friends and climbing partners. The house was standing but was no longer safe to continue living in, one room had collapsed, the water heater had exploded and flooded the house and there were 1 - 2 inch wide cracks running through the walls. Kaila, my friend who had loaned me the car (which was now stranded in a parking lot in the CBD) got in touch with me as soon as she heard about the earthquake. She topped up my phone with credit, offered her home and told me to take anyone else who was in need of shelter. She also organised for me to get to the airport and pick up her station wagon, which was to play a integral role in the weeks of cleaning up that followed.

I feel I could write forever about the events in my life surrounding the earthquake. Although it is painful to reminisce it feels calming to write about the experiences. I'm so grateful for the friends and family whom i spent the following weeks with and those from afar who offered love, support, funds a flight home to Australia (thanks brother nick). The most unique thing I witnessed first hand during this time was the unconditional love and support between absolute strangers. Sadly I don't think we get to experience this type of solidarity outside a social or natural disaster.

The video below is a short film my friend made. He ran into me as I was walking home at the end of the day. I appear at 2:45 in the film.

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully written - and encaptures a real sense of the emotions that we all felt that day.

    Keep up the writing - you're great at it.