A little over a year ago an earthquake struck a small country. And no, I’m not talking about Japan. Earthquakes strike with ferocious intensity all over our globe. This particular one struck a country that I’m very familiar with and have grown to love it and their people very much. On September 4, 2010 a magnitude 6.3 quake hit New Zealand in the south island near the home of some friends of ours. I remember reading just a little blurb about it in the newspaper. Frantic with worry for our friends and pissed off that something so huge garnered so little attention in our paper, I sent off an email to them praying that they were all right. Little did I know that the quake hit just a few miles from their home. Here in Reno we went through a few months of fore-shocks before the ‘big’ one hit..a measley 4.9. But do you remember the shock of it? Imagine a 6.3 quake hitting with the epicenter a few miles from your house. Here, in my beautiful friend Vanessa’s own writing, is her account of what happened.
Sept 4th – Woken at 4.35am from a deep sleep as the house and bed shook like an ocean liner crashing against the rocks in a stormy sea. Lying in bed for a few seconds hoping it would not get any worse the nightmare began. The sound of breaking items downstairs made my feet hit the floor faster than ever before. As I ran or should I say ‘swayed’ across the void from my room to Sam’s I could hear things falling off the walls and crashing to the floor. My little man Sam was still lying in his cot unaware that a 6.3 magnitude earthquake had just hit home. Only 10kms deep and 20minutes from home we were right in the epicenter of what we were about to hear was one of the biggest earthquakes to hit NZ. A large noise woke Sam so he had a small feed as I was still breast feeding him and went quickly back to sleep unalarmed and unharmed.
Through all of this my darling husband had no idea of what was going on as he was in New Caledonia on business with one of our guides. Ironically my mum and dad decided last minute to come out and stay the night so Sam and I were not alone. Although we could not see the destruction due to the electricity being out we knew the house was a mess. Not being able to see or do anything at that time of the morning we all huddled back into bed until the sun came up. The sun came up and the clean up began. Thankfully nobody was hurt. We were without power for a couple of days but still had water. After that, life was back to normal, or as normal as life is now. I would have to say that ‘this was the worst natural disaster I have ever experienced.
During all of this, thoughts run through your mind………..is the rest of the family OK, where was the epicenter, are the roads Ok. Little did we all know that the worst was yet to come!
Last year in May, my husband (Mr. Fae) and I traveled over there to see them. We had a glorious time with them and their little son, Sam. We traveled with them, fished and hunted with them, and even Vanessa got into scrapbooking at that time with me. Our two weeks flew by and soon we came home. Only four months later, that first quake would hit. Shane and Vanessa assured us that they were all fine, their families were fine and that New Zealand was literally picking up the pieces and struggling on.
Then, on February 22, another one hit. This time, Shane was due to be back here in Reno with us but got delayed by….
It was a normal summers day in the high country until our perfect world came to an abrupt standstill when the earth shook beneath us once again. I was packing up the car ready to take Shane to the airport as he was going back to Bob and Lorna’s in Reno on another marketing trip.
I had just put a load in the car and was coming back into the house when the house started to shake again. Once again, you freeze in your tracks thinking it can’t get worst. Shane was in the office and after a couple of seconds met me at the door, a couple of seconds later both of us ran to the top of the stairs to check on Sam. He was in his cot sleeping, sound asleep. My heart was fair pounding as I hugged Shane at the top of the stairs. Shane was only beginning to feel what it’s like as he was not here for the first one. This earthquake measured less than the Feb quake but this time was centralized much closer to our beautiful garden city of Christchurch.
Once the dust settled my first call was to my dad as he works in the CBD. I wanted to know if he felt it! His cell phone was dead. That worried me instantly. I then tried my mum’s, hers was down too. I then tried landlines and everything was dead. I felt sick to the stomach when I could not reach my 84-year-old blind grandmother. My mind at this point was telling me something was wrong in the city but we still had no idea what we were going to find out. It was 40 minutes before my dad was able to call me from his cell phone. The cell phones weren’t dead they were over loaded! All I remember hearing was my dad in tears saying ‘I can’t reach your mum and the city is a mess’. Before being cut off my dad said to me ‘it’s bad this time, buildings and hotels are down, people are hurt, the city is in dust, I’m getting out to find your mother’, I love you. The feeling of helplessness and anxiousness hit you like you would not believe.
Jim, one of our guides, called us to say that the airport was closed so there was not point heading into the city. All I wanted to do was go into the city to see that our families were OK. It seemed like only minutes before the news hit the TV. We turned the TV on and sat on the floor and cried. Oh my god, that was the worst news I had ever watched. Even as I write this message it brings tears to my eyes and chills through my body.
What else could we do but sit and wait and hope that everyone you know is safe. Shane and I watched the TV all afternoon feeling sicker and sicker knowing that many lives would have been taken that day. All I remember thinking while watching the news was ‘is that really Christchurch’.
The Feb earthquake is know now as ‘Christchurch’s Darkest Day’.
A while ago, I asked Vanessa to jot down her thoughts of that day and when I read them, they made me cry. I truly cannot imagine being that afraid for my family in such a gut wrenching way. Material things can be replaced but family and friends cannot be.
There was another huge quake that hit in June of this year. A 6.0 quake hit very near last one. Since the original quake hit, they have had over 7,500 aftershocks. That averages to 20 A DAY.
Japan’s earthquake and tsunami have completely overshadowed the New Zealand quakes and rightly so with over 23,000 dead and missing. Christchurch’s human loss was 181. There is no comparison. But to me, New Zealand’s quakes are more personal and I have a connection to the country and to the Kiwis we love.
So, to Shane and Vanessa and my darling little Kiwi grandson, Sam, we always think of you and your country’s catastrophe and wish we could help in some way from way over here in Nevada.
PS…..at 1:15am this morning I was awakened by a magnitude 2.2 quake centered in Mogul. Weird, huh?