4/9/10: The start of the Canterbury quakes

In the wee hours of the morning on this date 5 years ago, Canterbury was struck by an earthquake that led to a chain of aftershocks including the devastating 21 February 2011 quake. I have told many people my account of that morning but I thought I’d write it down so that it is archived somewhere forever. You know, in case I forget what it was like – highly doubt I ever will though…I hope. 

5 years ago I lived at a flat which was opposite some train tracks. It was not uncommon to hear rumbling at night as trains passed by in the dead hours of the morning and it annoyed me all the time. This night was just like every other night. I was working on my essays till late and had just gone off to sleep. I was sleeping soundly and suddenly I heard that rumbling noise. I remember thinking to myself, “Thank you for the unwanted wake-up call train”. So I waited for it to end but instead of fading away…the rumbling got louder and louder. 

At this point I realized that something was amidst. So the first thought that entered my head which prompted me to halfheartedly open my eyes was….[blockquote author=”” link=”” target=”_blank”]Oh shit. The train derailed!![/blockquote] Why I thought of this, I will never know. But then I noticed that my cabinet started shaking and the shakes got stronger and stronger. I think most people would have bolted out of bed at this point but not me…nope. For some reason, I thought it was safer for me to hide under the blankets and grip onto the mattress. In fact it still had yet to occur to me that I was experiencing an earthquake. Maybe it was because I never expected one to happen. After all people thought it would never happen to Christchurch up till that morning.

I was lucky though. Nothing in my room fell over and the shaking was rough but not violent. So after the shaking stopped I just continued to lie in bed and try to fall back to sleep. Just as I was about to fall asleep I jolted up again because I realized that all that shaking was actually an earthquake. Then the text messages started pouring in and I heard my flatmate knock on my door to check if I was alright. After that I went back to sleep and woke up a few hours later after a particularly jolty aftershock. Looking back I had no idea how I remained so calm that morning. Maybe I was just scared to the point that I forgot fear, I was in flight mode. I didn’t even call my parents…they heard about the quake from a friend and called to ask me if it happened 

When I relay my memory of that night to people I always get strange looks and frankly, I know my response to the event is strange. I am not saying that it wasn’t a serious event because it definitely was but I still cannot phantom why I responded the way I did. To be honest…every time I recant the tale, it bugs me that I was so calm. But I suppose the silver lining is that I can remain calm in the worst of situations. 

And there we have it. My memory of this day 5 years ago in a short post that is archived here forever. It still feels like it happened yesterday at time, especially when you drive through the city center and see all the empty lots of land. Hopefully this beautiful city will be reinstated to its former glory soon or made even better.

Were you in Christchurch the night the quake hit? What was your experience like? Would love to hear! Maybe I’ll find someone who reacted the same way I did and I can feel less strange about it.


Canterbury, Earthquake, Experience, Home, New Zealand, Reflection

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