Friday, March 4, 2011

That Tuesday

The morning was overcast. As usual I cycled to work. As part of cycle month the social club had arranged a light breakfast for cyclists. Rebecca from the social club provided hot cross buns, fruit, muesli bars and juice.

Not many cyclists this morning, the weather put off many. I chatted with Rebecca as I ate a little. Her house had been badly damaged by the September quake. She and her husband were living in their house even though it was damaged. She spoke of the frustration of not knowing.

After the breakfast I went to work. First I sent the cricket spreadsheet to Boaz for checking (I am running a competition for the world cup). The rest of the morning I wrote some code and made some progress. At morning tea I sent out the cricket progress.

I usually take 45 minutes for lunch. I usually leave my desk at about 12:30 and walk into the city, pick up lunch in Armagh Street and carry through to Cathedral Square. I eat my lunch and watch some chess. I usually leave the square just after 1:00 and get back at 1:15. I had though been taking lunch slightly earlier.

Luckily this Tuesday I decided to just walk to Armagh Street, get some meat from Verkerks. I usually do not buy steak but rump steak was on special so I purchased a piece, two chops and four chicken drumsticks.

I returned to work and got back at about 12:45. I was just starting working when the earthquake struck. We had aftershock before. I had felt them before. I had dived under my desk before. I had not before felt a fury like this. There was no slow rumble and casual build up. This was sudden and violent. The desk above seemed to float above I held it to hold it steady. I had no idea what was happening. I saw a colleague on the floor before me I helped him under the desk. To me the quake seemed brief compared to the force. Other told me it was much longer.

The shaking finished and I have no idea how I felt. I have no recollection. I knew I was supposed to leave the building. I knew I would be heading home. At the time I thought I would return in a day and return.

We had only returned to the third floor in December. The September quake had resulted in the ceiling coming down. The ceiling had been strengthened. The strengthening had worked little had fallen on people. Still there was a mess, contents of desks strewn over the floor. I looked to the rubble to find my cell phone. Luckily it was near the top. Still by the time I picked it up most people had evacuated the floor.

I gathered my stuff including my meat form the fridge. The glass wall of at least one meeting room was shattered. It was a miracle no one in the building was badly injured. I headed down stairs, stopped briefly in the work café to check on the staff there, then headed outside.

People gathered in the car park, others headed home. Lyne phoned me to make sure I was home. I told her I’d be home soon. I chattered to colleagues. I noticed cracks in our building. I realised then it would be a while before we returned to work. I did not realise the flats in front of our office had fallen down. How I missed that? I went around to the bike shed to get my bike. However no power so no entry. I though no worries I’ll get it tomorrow I’ll just walk home. I send Lyne a text to say I’d be a bit later.

I hung around for a few more minutes. Then people noticed the flats. Some brave people went to check on the flats to make sure people were not trapped. I decided it was about time to work home.

On a usual day it takes 45 minutes to walk home. It did not take long to realise this day the journey would be looking. There was water everywhere. It seemed every water pipe and sewer had burst. There was water everywhere. The footpaths were flooded and the roads were flooded. A mass of traffic was heading down Bealey Ave. Power was out traffic lights did not work. It was chaos. I phone Lyne to tell her I would be later than expected. I had no idea how long I would be. She offered to pick me up. Luckily I told her not to.

I started walking. I looked to walk along streets with less flooding. I got to Hills Road. The flooding seemed worse on the east side than the west. My shoes and socks were soaked it was impossible to keep dry. However there were was some drier bits.

When I got to Edgeware Road all I saw in front was water. I decided to try another street. Geraldine Street seemed better. However when I got a block up it seemed worse so I turned back. I tried Barbadoes Street it was bad too. I realised it was all bad. The footpath was impossible to walk down. I joined other walking down the middle of the road. By now cars were travelling slowly so walking down the middle caused little difficulty.

On the walk I talked to many people checking to see that they were ok. When walking down Barbadoes Street I followed a young lad. He was much more aware than I was. He noticed a couple in stress. He wadded across to them, I merely followed, the water was above my knee so my new trousers (I had purchased them on the previous Sunday) got soaked. The couple were fine like most people they were shocked.

When I got to Warrington Street I turned righted and headed towards Shirley. The footpath on Warrington Street was less flooded so I returned to walking along them. I crossed the road about half way to Hills Road. It was Warrington Street where I first smelt the sewerage. There was no option I walked on. I recognised the son of a friend chatting with his friends. I decided not to chat with him, he would not know me. The way I recognised him was he look so much like his father and his mother lives nearby. I hope his mother, who is blind, was fine. I was heading home to be with my wife I was forgetting about others.

At Hills Road Warrington Street becomes Shirley Road. I had to decide to turn and walk along Hills Road or to carry on up to Quinns Road. I chose wrong again and headed north along Hills Road. I made it to the first corner and turned into a small street then a foot lane on to another small street. Again I walked past a friends place without checking she was ok. I reached Emmett Street to resume the journey north. No way the street was flooded, vehicles abandoned. I headed south back to Shirley Road. From then on the water seemed less. I went onto Quinns Road and headed north again. Much less water but there was a lot of silt. With less water it was easier to walk. There were huge cracks in the road, a stranded car and local people directing traffic away from danger. People are wonderful. From just past the school the damage was less. Less silt and stuff all water. There were chimneys downs but it seemed like a different planet to what I had left.

I got home and found my wife. Our house stands at the time we had no water, sewerage, phone, internet nor power. The house has cracks in the foundations and between Gibb however it remained watertight. We are very lucky.

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