Shake, Rattle And Roll…Pt III
|Upper Manchester St; liquefaction wasn’t this
prevalent in Sept ’10
I started to notice more around me, helicopters buzzed around us; TV crews in some came right down and got some verbal abuse from survivors and rescuers; another was doing a round trip of about 2km with a monsoon bucket filling up from the Avon and dumping it on CTV which we couldn’t see bar the black smoke cloud billowing upwards; another chopper was near the Forsythe Barr Building where we had heard the lifts and stairwells were inaccessible, and people waited on balconies awaiting rescue.
Within an hour, more appliances and personnel had turned up, it was obvious that PGG was one of the priority sites for rescue. there was talk of about 200 inside when the quake hit, my guesstimation was barely half of that were being treated on the grass, so that left a lot to be found.
I got to talking to some other people around me; a couple of American tourists taking pictures who had walked up from Latimer Square; two homeless guys who seemed bemused by the spectacle; a Customs Officer and an Army guy holding cordon – the universal feeling was, was, shit, I cannot express it into words.
Word started to spread that the services were looking to evacuate everyone from the area – I had noted at this point that the concrete cutters and sledgehammers on the rubble had stopped, no one had noticed it. And the rescuers seemed to be leaning into holes, obviously coming across someone or something ready to come out, and as we were cleared further from the makeshift erection I helped build earlier, my only thought was they did not want anyone to see the bodies.
I walked, not with purpose, back to my car. People were walking in no particular direction, it was quiet, so quiet. One lady sat in a bus shelter with her son and dog, another elderly lady was cradling her cat. Some people had suitcases and blankets and backpacks – where they were going, I have no idea, it seemed there was nowhere to go for a lot of them.
In my car I drove north up Manchester, into Bealey and then onto Cranford. From this point on, I barely saw a car. The streets were deadly quiet, I felt like I was in that movie Quiet Earth with Bruno Lawerence; why was I the only survivor? Why was I OK? Where was everyone. The streets were pock-marked with holes, subsidence, cracks, and in places a torrent of liquefaction. Dust was swirled up by what cars were driving.
Heading north through Redwood I saw my first ‘life’, the Mobil station had a queue a mile long wanting fuel, and I quickly made a decision, I needed some supplies. But what? The continued drive solved it for me – supermarkets were closed, other fuel stations, but right on the outskirts of Belfast, The Peg, a pub was open. I pulled in, bought a case of Speights and a packet of smokes, and headed home.
the motorway was like driving on waves – not as obviously damaged as the previous quake, it was nonetheless affected, and speeds up to 100kmh made the car jump about, so I slowed it right down…what was my hurry?
|Fuck, no other word for it…|
I called into my neighbours first, Pete and Sue. I had been told our power was out, and seeing their TV through the window assumed they had their generator on. They invited me in for a beer, said they had been checking on the dogs, but I just wanted to see my girls and then back to my animals. The power was back on, so I was relieved that the fish at least would be OK if they hadn’t been tipped out.
At the in-laws, I hugged my girls, made plans they would both stay there that night and I would go home. While having a beer, I first saw the Cathedral. My first tear..I couldn’t believe it, and still refuse to believe it. It just doesn’t seem right, criminal. The symbol of Christchurch, of its people, of the country almost, lay in ruins. 100-odd years it withstood anything thrown at it, seen people through World Wars, through the depression, through disasters worse than this, and always giving hope, inspiration, and guidance. And now it may end up being the face of this whole damned mess…RIP Christchurch.
I went home, drained, but pumped. I fed the animals, walked the house, cleaned up the mess. We were fine, we were lucky. And as soon as you think that, you feel guilt, shame, depressed. Two friends came by to check up on me, we had a few beers and watched the same scenes over and over, waiting for something new, another survivor, or death, it didn’t matter, we needed to know either way. When they left, I drank some more, conscious of the fact that it is easy to see how people fall into alcoholism, well not me. I went to bed and slept…through a dozen shakes until the 4+ at 6am which got me up. TV on, a coffee, a few TXT to friends and family. My blog, feeding my pets, it seemed all so automated. I was working on habit, still bothered by the fact that there were things to do for others. Finally Katie advised she was booked on a flight, we organised for friends to come and stay and get out of the city…and this is where you find me now, waiting on my love with my kids here watching the idiot box, the fire lit (it’s not that cold, but there is a sense of comfort in a fire-place). I haven’t eaten since breakfast yesterday, coffee getting me by. We wait, and wait…
So now we look to the future, to rebuild. Last year seems so long ago, we coped and we won. Can we do it again? Damned fucken right we can!