It sounded like trains rumbling through the quiet of night, only you never quite knew when to expect them. Most of the time my heart was beating as if I’d been running away from these invisible trains, but the only movement I’d made was to grab the duvet, ready to throw it aside and make it to a door and relative safety. This was how the whole night was spent as the aftershocks rumbled through, some feeling like they were right under my bed. Although day light had not long left us I longed for its return.

Yet the day had started like any other. Arranging to grab coffee with a room mate we both headed into the city before breaking off in separate directions for what was supposed to be a few hours while we organised our own lives, but in those few hours everything changed.

I’d headed to the library to catch up with my mom and best friend back home, with my laptop running out of battery and no charger with me I made a move onto the children’s computers on the ground level of the library. Thankfully I must have been looking pretty young that day as another adult sat next to me was asked to move upstairs to the adult computers, not long after that less than a minute of violent shaking had changed Christchurch from one of the most beautiful cities I had seen into a disaster zone.

At first it sounded like something had crashed into the side of the building, only that wouldn’t make the ground move like it did. Panicking I ran hell for leather to get outside, not an easy task, every step I took threw me into a different direction, person or object. Emerging from the library was like emerging into a different world, the air was clogged with dust, shattered glass littered the floor and an air of shock lingered over everyone. Not quite knowing what to do my body continued to take over, my feet started walking to Cathedral Square and my hands sought solace in my camera, it was like trying to find some normality in what was turning into a nightmare situation.

Reaching the square my heart sunk at the sight of the cathedral, only two days earlier I had rung the bells that now lay in the rubble, the reality of the situation was beginning to hit me and it became even more real as I saw a bloodied face screaming for help in one of the cathedral windows. The square was rapidly filling with people, at first, those unhurt, but then the walking wounded. It wasn’t long before we got our first aftershock; screams accompanying the initial rumble as it rattled through the city. Crouching with my hands over my head I listened to more masonry falling off the cathedral whilst hoping and praying the dome I was watching sway drastically, wouldn’t collapse onto the crowd below.

Although the ground had stopped shaking my body hadn’t, the shock was beginning to hit and I longed to hear a familiar voice that would tell me it was all going to be ok. As the emergency response began in a cacophony of sirens, we were told to leave the city and give the emergency services the space they needed to respond. Heading towards open space and parkland with a random group of people we took comfort in each others company, constantly moving around for the next few hours. Then having headed off in our separate ways, the greatest comfort of all came from finding a mother and daughter that were willing to take me into their own home for the night after finding me wondering around the park wondering what on earth I needed to do next. Arriving at their house it looked like a bomb had hit it, yet they took it all in their stride and cared for me as one of their own.

After a sleepless night the following morning they helped me escape the city, whilst they themselves were bound to it as their home. I will never forget their kindness and hope one day I will find a way to repay them, they were a comfort in the darkest of hours and that is something I will never forget.

S Anderson

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