Monday, February 28, 2011

I’m not a hero – Day 5 after #Chch #Eqnz

I’ve learned one thing about myself this week.  I’d always assumed I was someone who coped well with crisis.  I’d assumed that in an emergency I’d be someone who stops to help others. But when the crunch came, it didn’t even occur to me.  Even though I’d seen the buildings come down, I didn’t think to stop and look for people in the rubble.  There were teenage school girls screaming with fear, and I didn’t stop to reassure them.  My brain was numb, and not functioning beyond “I’ve got to get out of here”.

Partially in my excuse, I couldn’t actually see anyone injured or trapped.  The buildings that collapsed near me had already been empty from the Boxing Day aftershock, and as far as I could see the others who’d been near me in the street had also got clear.  Those who’d been killed were a few metres further down the street, and I couldn’t see that far due to the fog of dust everywhere.  But it should have occurred to me that there would have been people needing help, and it didn’t.

These thoughts had been really bugging me for a few days.  Stories were emerging of passersby pulling injured people free from rubble, and those people were quoted as saying they were only doing what anyone would do in the circumstances.  But I was in the same circumstances and I didn’t.

I hadn’t been able to cope with Church yesterday morning – too many people, too much noise.  Even hiding in crèche with Mr Two got too noisy for me just with having half a dozen toddlers playing.

In the afternoon I went for a walk along Wigram Road – out in the open with nice open paddocks on either side, and wide open sky, and nothing to fall down.  I found a quiet spot beside the road and sat down for a good cry. (Well, it was quiet until a passing motorist paused to ask if I was okay.) And yes, it did feel better.  And yes, I felt God was there with me as I did so.

I then attended the evening prayer meeting.  Smaller numbers, slightly quieter music.  About where I was at.  And I found I was actually able to pray.  I think praying with other people in a small group helped.

Later in the evening Steve Graham (my previous pastor, Dean of Laidlaw College in Christchurch, and a reader of this blog) emailed me (and others) an article he’d written:

The paragraph that touched me the most was:

““As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven,” Neh 1: 4.

I like the sense of that phrase “wept and mo
urned for days”, I think he is emphasizing that this was overwhelming. He did not rush out to be strong or powerful or cope, he grieved and it went on and on and on. And he had not even been part of the trauma. And some of us feel like that and a bit embarrassed and guilty that we haven’t been strong and charged out helping. We were just stunned and tearful. Thank God for those of you who leapt into action. We so needed your calm confidence but others of us just didn’t cope so well this time. We are all different aren’t we and as Mayor Bob Parker said we need to do what is right for us. Sounds kind of selfish, feels guilty – thanks for permission Bob (sincerely!). Some of us need to get out of the city, some need to care for needy family, some DO need to get out and help. The paradox is that the sooner we do what we need to do the sooner the energy will come to help. Some may say I don’t have that luxury just now. All we can say is thank you and we want to be there to give you that time when your time comes. This guy Nehemiah wept for days – later he would rebuild a nation!”

I really appreciated those words Steve – they were right where I was at.  I was feeling embarrassed and a little guilty I hadn’t done more on the day.  But I did what I needed to do for me – get safe and get to my family.

So bravo to all the real heroes out there.  We couldn’t do this without you.  But it’s not wrong for me to not be one of them.  My part in the process will come.

I’d really recommend everyone affected by this quake to read Steve’s article.  Everyone’s at a different place, and Steve seems to have touched on all of those places.

To use Steve’s words to sum up:

“In summary:
• Grieve: be true to what your heart and your body are saying you need to do. The sooner you do the sooner you move through that phase.
• Take care of yourself: do the basics: eat, and sleep.
• Listen for the heart promptings of “good” you could do
• Begin restoring order and filling – and celebrate each small step and pace yourself as you do it.
• Team together and focus what you can do knowing others will be building right next to you.
• Find the life giving presence and power of God, the resurrection power of God, to rebuild hope life, laughter, joy, order, love, structure and fullness.
• Let hope begin to arise – God is with us for recovery and this great city can be rebuilt.”

Again – thanks Steve.  Now I’m off to have another quiet cry.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


I’ve just read the following blog from Steve Graham:

I’d recommend a read – very encouraging stuff, especially for where I seem to be at.  I’ll be mulling over this for a few days.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Day 4 after #chch #eqnz No. 2

Had a low day today. 

Unsettled sleep during the night due to Miss Four having a bit of a fever and “sore tummy” which landed her wriggling and squirming in my bed for about an hour until some paracetamol kicked in.  I also had Mr Two on the other side of me, since I was still nervous about the location of his cot in relation to the unstable chimney.

Add to that a few sharp aftershocks to wake me up during the night, I felt distinctly sleep deprived by morning.  When I read some of the stories in the morning paper, particularly about one of the babies that had died, I was feeling emotional and weepy.

During the day I found the pit of my stomach sat permanently knotted.  I was snappy and emotional.  I took two of the children to a 2-year-old’s birthday party, and found myself struggling to socialise with the other Mums.  The other guests swapped notes about the extent of damage to their homes and neighbourhoods, but I just wanted to find a corner to curl up in and hide from it all.

Everyone in our family is showing the strain in their own way.  Miss Seven is having a short fuse, and gets upset and grumpy with very small triggers from either siblings or parents.  She’s also very restless, wanting to run or bounce or jiggle.  Unfortunately it’s been a wet few days, with little opportunity for her to release that energy outside.

Miss Four prefers a quiet space to herself, where she likes to draw or build with blocks on her own.  She gets rattled when her siblings get too close into her space.

Mr Two is just clingy.  He doesn’t like being out of my sight for very long, and if he happens to be in another room when an aftershock hits he comes running to find me saying “wobble wobble” and wanting lots of cuddles.  He’s even come running in saying “wobble” when I think it’s not a real tremor.

Hubby’s also showing a tendency to retreat when he can.  His “cave” of choice is facebook games (particularly farmtown).  I’m finding the writing of this blog helpful, and distracting myself with non-earthquake related reading.

In normal times I usually find prayer helpful, but at the moment when I try to pray I end up all choked up or crying.  I know that being able to cry it out would be an important part of healing. I believe that in some way I can’t quite feel at the moment, God is a part of that crying, and in time I’ll find comfort there.  I’m just not there yet.

To all my readers in Christchurch: consider this a big hug to you all.
To my out-of-Christchurch readers: Thank you for your thoughts, love and prayers.  It might not seem much, but just to know you’re thinking about us actually makes a huge difference at the emotional level.  It’s appreciated more than you can realise.

God defend New Zealand

I’ve been feeling weepy today ever since reading this mornings newspaper.  Then started crying all over again with this video clip. 

All I can say is thanks so much for your love and prayers.

God of Nations at Thy feet,
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our free land.
Guard Pacific's triple star
From the shafts of strife and war,
Make her praises heard afar,
God defend New Zealand.

Men of every creed and race,
Gather here before Thy face,
Asking Thee to bless this place,
God defend our free land.
From dissension, envy, hate,
And corruption guard our state,
Make our country good and great,
God defend New Zealand.

Peace, not war, shall be our boast,
But, should foes assail our coast,
Make us then a mighty host,
God defend our free land.
Lord of battles in Thy might,
Put our enemies to flight,
Let our cause be just and right,
God defend New Zealand.

Let our love for Thee increase,
May Thy blessings never cease,
Give us plenty, give us peace,
God defend our free land.
From dishonour and from shame,
Guard our country's spotless name,
Crown her with immortal fame,
God defend New Zealand.

May our mountains ever be
Freedom's ramparts on the sea,
Make us faithful unto Thee,
God defend our free land.
Guide her in the nations' van,
Preaching love and truth to man,
Working out Thy glorious plan,
God defend New Zealand.

(Lyrics courtesy of

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Day 2 after #chch #eqnz No. 2

I was so proud of my Miss Seven today!  We met a school friend at the supermarket and they mentioned the had no water on.  We had a barrel of rainwater, so we filled a container, and put it in a little block trolley to take to them.  Miss Seven really wanted to be the one to push it, and did so the entire 1.3km.  She was so determined – I offered to take a turn pushing, or to stop for a rest when we were about half way there, but she insisted on keeping going.  “I know I can, I know I can, I can do this”.


I think she really wanted to do something to be able to help someone.  That’s about 25 litres of water she’s pushing.

I’ve been appreciating all the online support from all my friends and contacts.  People out of town are asking how they can help and the answer is keep thinking of and praying for us, and even sending a note or message to let us know just helps lift us up emotionally.  Being able to chat about my experiences with people who aren’t just as upset as I am helps too.

Seeing some of the media coverage just brings back all the feelings again.  I’ve tried praying, especially for those still trapped and missing, but I just choke up and can’t get past the emotional rawness.  So I really appreciate hearing of other people praying where I can’t. 

Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

1 Day after #Chch #Eqnz 2011. 172 days after #Chch #Eqnz Sept 2010

This is a ramble of random thoughts.
A state of national emergency has been declared – the first in our country’s history.  The rescue efforts at the CTV building have been called off – there is no longer any chance of survival, and teams are needed at other site where trapped people are known to be alive.
On a personal note, we have power.  There is water in the taps, but only on low pressure, and of unknown quantity.  We have plenty of stored safe water, having learnt our lesson in September.  The chimney is wobbly, and “on the list” but understandably there are more important things for emergency services to worry about. 
We spent last night bunking down at the neighbours.  I was worried about our chimney, but also needed the company.  I knew there would be lots of aftershocks during the first night – just like there were in September.
My two year old wouldn’t let me go for most of the day.  I didn’t sleep well last night because whenever I closed my eyes all I could see were buildings falling towards me.  I felt sick to the pit of my stomach when I read about a mother who had perished by being crushed by falling rubble, only metres away from where I had been running to avoid meeting the same fate.  I hugged my two year old back – he still has a Mummy to hug.  There’s a baby out there that doesn’t.
I walked about 4 km each way to the nearest open supermarket to find some groceries. Our car is currently at the mechanics awaiting parts – we now don’t know how long that wait will take. The buses are not running. We were down to one loaf of bread and assorted tins.  I had the two year old in the pram (he wasn’t going to let me leave without him).  There were horrendously long queues at the few petrol stations open.  By the time I got to the supermarket there wasn’t a scrap of bread left.  Milk was being rationed.  But I was able to get some fruit, meat, milk and sanity supplies (i.e. chocolate).
The walk actually did me good.  I had been spending too much time reading the news coverage on the internet, and was getting very upset and worked up.  The walk gave me a chance to just work through some of the stuff in my head, and I felt emotionally better by the time I was home.
What I’m focusing on at the moment are these things.
  • I’m alive
  • My family are all accounted for and safe
  • I have a roof over my head (we won’t think too much about the chimney).
  • We have water (bottled) and food and power.
I still feel grief and anguish over those who have perished.  I don’t yet know if anyone I know is among the dead or missing – I’m still working through trying to get in touch with all my friends.  Right now I’m finding it hard to pray – how do I pray? What do I pray? It just feels too much, and when I try to pray I just choke up.  Where does my faith fit into this?  Everything I wrote in September still holds, I still believe it.  But right now the feelings are too strong, too raw to actually process anything at that level. 
To all my readers outside of Christchurch – thank you for your thoughts and prayers.  Please keep praying – we’re wobbling with an aftershock as I write this, and my stomach is retying itself into the knots I thought I’d started to unravel.  Pray especially for those who have lost loved ones.  Pray for those still trapped and alive.  Pray for our nerves.

Christchurch Earthquake Take 2

So it turns out last September was our practice run.  I think the Taniwha’s big brother woke up and had a party down there.  Someone call noise control because it’s time to shut that party down – we’ve had enough here.
I had just finished my lunch as was making my way back to work in Cashel Mall when the shaking started.  I grabbed a planter to brace myself, then looked up and saw the front wall of a building start toppling into the street.  I ran to get out of the way, then looked up and the building on the other side of the street was also starting to fall over.  One by one about 4 or 5 buildings in that block came down.  I found myself in the middle of the street trying to figure out which building was going to come down next, trying to see through the cloud of dust that had reduced visibility to a few meters.  People ran out of buildings screaming and crying, but I couldn’t see anyone near me who was actually hurt.
I don’t think my head was thinking clearly.  Someone asked me if I was okay, and I said I just needed to get out from there.  I remember thinking, they’ll need to evacuate and cordon off this street so I’d better get out of the way.  I didn’t realise there were other parts of town even worse.
My next thought was to get back to the office and check in and let everyone know I was okay.  I got to the Bridge of Remembrance, and noticed the join between the bridge and the footpath was damaged. I scuttled across the bridge and the footpath on the other side was buckled up a couple of feet.  About that time I got a txt from Hubby “Did you feel that one?” The traffic lights were out, but I got across the road and made it back to the office.  The building had been automatically evacuated, and people were scared, but even they didn’t realise how bad it had been.  I was covered in masonry dust. I checked in with the boss (who was chief warden of the building coordinating the evacuation).
I figured the buses probably wouldn’t be running so sent a txt to hubby that I was walking home.  The network was down but I figured the txt would get through eventually.  It was received about 5 or 6 times as the cell phone servers kept resetting themselves and resending everything since the last backup.
There was more buckling at the edge of the Montreal Street bridge, so I waited until after a tremor had finished before running across the bridge.  I didn’t want to be in the middle of it for an aftershock.  I made friends with another lady walking to her car parked in Riccarton.  We walked together to the Mall, where she went to check on her brother in law who works nearby.  People listening on their car radios told me it was magnitude 6.3 and there were reports of deaths.  My new friend found someone else going in the same direction as her who needed a lift since the buses had all stopped.  We walked to her car near Shand Crescent.
About then my cellphone got reception again, and so I called Hubby to let him know where I was.  He was home with all the children and everything was okay there.  By Clyde Road I took off my shoes and walked barefoot because of 3 nasty blisters that had come up.  About a block after that my new friend caught up to me with her car, and offered me a lift as far as our paths coincided.  Traffic had started moving a little more freely.  In the end it took about 1 1/2 hours to get home.  My two year old came running out saying “Mummy! Wobbles!”
Updated: hyperlinks added for reference above.  Everytime I shut my eyes I can see that wall toppling towards me.  I just read a mother was killed in that street just down a bit from where I was.