the alfmeister

a figment of reality's imagination

Shake, Rattle And Roll…Pt II

>If September 4 2010 was a shock to the system and wake up call to an unsuspecting and complacent nation, February 22 2011, at 12:51pm was a reminder that no matter what you plan for, what you expect, nature can make you feel helpless, small, and suddenly very mortal.

For those who know me, I am a relatively staunch person and it takes a lot to faze me, but the events of yesterday put me right on my arse, humbled me, and despite being of no religious belief, am thankful to God, Buddha, Hendrix or whoever is ‘up there’, that my family are OK, my friends are OK, and that there was not a level of death and destruction that could easily be considered in the larger picture.

We will hear stories of heroism, despair, death and hope over the coming weeks and months, and while mine has no real place amongst those who have lost so much, here is my story, my account, and my thoughts…

Church on Bealey Ave;
 survivor first time round, not so lucky this time.

The morning was drab, and I was preparing Deanna for the fact that she wouldn’t likely be going on her school trip to Spencer Park in town (what a moment of reflection!!!), and after dropping her and Renee to their grandparents I moseyed into town, listening to Blues. It was to be a biggish day, a visit to the VFNZ Switch (ironically it was discussed backup for disasters), then me and Glen, the boss, off to Dunsandel to sign up a customer. After this was done, a moment I can only consider serendipitous occurred. I asked Glen if he minded if we detoured out to Leeston to see another potential customer before heading back to work at PWC, 13th Floor. This done, adding about an hour, we cruised back to town in my Commodore. Just out of Lincoln I felt the back end of the car ‘kick out’ and just put it down to wet road and a slick patch. However, the other side of Lincoln, the car did it again, however almost got sideways on the narrow road. Glen asked what the fuck I was doing and as I pulled over I explained that I must have a debeading tyre or something. We got out, looked around the car, found nothing, and started on our way. My phone beeped with a TXT from my builder mate, Jed, “How big was that one?”. I couldn’t understand what he meant, figured he was showing off that he was fishing again, and then Glen’s phone rang. His wife was in hysterics, their house was trashed, CHCH had just been hit by another quake. he promised he would be there soon, but as we hit Hornby, it became clear that this would not be the case. For close to an hour we crawled through CHCH’s outer suburban streets, listening to Talkback (I despise talkback radio, but it was the only transmitting station we could find) and the news and calls coming in painted a dire picture. Me and Glen tried in vain to contact people but the service was out. It would flicker now and again, just enough to receive TXT about missed calls and from concerned friends and family. I got hold of Katie who only flew out to Wellington that morning and she was worried. Where was I? Where were the kids, where were our friends? Our colleagues were based on the 13th Floor of PWC, and some of those aftershocks have made that swing more than a middle aged orgy, and we couldn’t raise any of them, and concerned mounted as reports of collapsed buildings were on the radio. Close to Ilam, Glen jumped out and footed it home…I wondered if he would be OK if another struck as we had been feeling them in the car all the way into town. I made the call not to head home, the gridlock was so bad, people trying desperately to get anywhere but here, kids and parents running on the streets, cars bumper to bumper. I finally got through to Katie again, and to her father and advised I would head into town, I felt I had to do something, help in anyway. My gut was sick to the core, the helplessness and desperation of it all was unfathomable…my family were OK (although I hadn’t heard from my younger brother and his wife at this point so was continually trying them.

Getting closer to Papanui Rd, the streets still looked normal, like nothing had happened. It was only the mud covered cars and stressed people that gave any indication of something. But once I turned south onto Papanui Rd in Merivale, shit, how do you explain it.

One of the many houses damaged;
Bealey Ave

The only people I think that could appreciate the scenes would be those who have seen something so bad, it seems almost Hollywood – The Trade Centre 9/11, Haiti, LA, Indonesia and so on. People covered in blood and dust walked right up the middle of the road, they didn’t want to be near buildings in case they came down on them. Buildings that had come through unscathed late last year were destroyed or looked like they had been ransacked. At Bealey, the Carlton, just hanging on from September 4, was fucked. As were the numerous churches awaiting repairs under heritage trust or otherwise.
As I crawled along Bealey, barely 2kms from I wanted to go, people on cars either side of me chatted to me, we exchanged our stories, explained where we were headed now. Katie called again and as we chatted, a big aftershock hit. The Commodore, lowered, jumped about like one of those LA Gangsta’s cars on springs, the massive oaks swayed side to side, and the Red Bus beside me, full of school kids was a din of screaming.

But still the enormity of it hadn’t sunk in…we had had this before, got through it, how much worse could it be?


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