SLIDER

Guilt

Thursday, February 24, 2011
Lying in bed at night - eyes wide open - lying on your back so you can hear with both ears . . . waiting for it.

Watching tv . . . then having to mute the sound . . . is it a plane going over . . . or is it another one?

Putting off having a shower . . . in case one happens while you're in there.

Climbing over mattresses to open the windows in the morning . . . because the kids are all sleeping together.


When we arrived in Auckland back in January, my brother-in-law had parked in a multi-storied car park. I remember saying at the time, "it's ok - I can walk under here and not worry about it. I'm in Auckland. Not Christchurch." I have avoided multi-leveled car parks since the first earthquake. I once drove around an outside carpark for 10 minutes waiting for a park just so I didn't have to go into the 4-storied one.

Actually, we are feeling guilty here in North Canterbury. My husband had a close shave in his office, and who knows when he'll be back at work. There is now danger of the building next to his falling down on top. Everyday I am thankful that he made it out. I look at him and think that it could be him trapped in those buildings. When the kids are fighting over little pieces of Lego I remind them how blessed they are.

But other than our close shave we are carrying on as much as we ever did, except the tv is on all day, and we can't stay away from the internet. We have power. We have fresh, clean water. We're lucky that we have a bed to sleep in at night, a shower that works, a tv, and a family who are all together without the worry of someone missing.

We have a spare room, but our friends and family prefer to stay in their homes because of the danger of looters. Can you believe there are people in this city who are doing that! Unbelievable! I am always astonished at the depravity of a small minority of people in circumstances like this.

You suddenly realise that you've survived a terribly traumatic event. When it happened on Tuesday I had just sat down for a cup of coffee after spending the morning making tomato soup. I heard a distant rumble and thought it must be just another little aftershock happening - until the noise of the house rattling violently made me realise in that split second that it was a big one. I was home alone with Alice asleep at the other end of the house. I was actually confused as to what to do - the windows sounded like they were about to pop, and I remember looking up at the ceiling, and I didn't know if I had time to go and get her. I thought to open the outside door first so I had a means of escape if the worst occured and then I ran down the hallway to get Alice. By the time I got back it was subsiding. Then I realised that my heart was racing, I was breathing heavily like I'd just run a marathon and my whole body was shaking. Alice clung to my neck.

The worst thing was not knowing what was happening in the city. It was a big shake out here, so I knew it had to be catastrophic in there. I was terribly worried about Robin. His office on the first floor was already a big dodgy after the last quake and the quickest way out of there was two flights of stairs.

Then I began worrying about a good friend who works in the square. I was texting all over the place "R U OK?" I was pretty sure that it wouldn't take long for the phone lines to get blocked up. Then my phone rang. It was Robin. He was ok. He was very shaken and actually couldn't talk much except to say he was ok and that buildings around him had collapsed. He said he had to go back in for the car keys.

Then I began to worry about the kids. I knew they were ok - at school on their lunch break, so they would be outside, but Hugh and Meredith had been at swimming sports in Kaiapoi for the morning. Kaiapoi was one of the areas massively affected by the last quake and the pool had only been opened again for a little while. What if they had been delayed in getting back?

Alice and I raced down to the school. Amazingly everything looked just the same. After an event like that it's always funny, and kind of reassuring to find normal things going on still. I remember seeing a farm sprinkler working, and some builders backing a truck into their work site. People were out driving. Everything looked just the same. Even at the school. Except as I pulled up so did some other mums. Running to the playground. Some mothers were crying. Some kids were crying. Some of the teachers had upset children in their laps, arms around them, comforting them. Hugh's pregnant teacher was crying. Composed, but upset.

I got the children home and we were glued to the tv, and replying to texts and emails all afternoon letting people know we were ok, checking on friends and family who we hadn't heard from. Neighbours calling in. My friend who works in the square finally text me. She was ok. She'd been out on her lunchbreak. She hadn't wanted to text me, because she'd walked past Robin's street and had seen the devastation and didn't want to worry me if I hadn't heard from him.

We are so very blessed. So very thankful for our safety when so many are not.

We feel a little of the survivor's guilt. The kids are playing, taking naps. I'm baking for my brother-in-law and his family who are coming out this afternoon for showers, food and water. I've got washing hanging on the line. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, a soft breeze is blowing in my open, undamaged door and I can see the cows in the paddock flicking their tales idly in the afternoon heat. I have a spare bathroom and an empty spare room. I feel guilty about that.

It's incredible to think that just across the river so much chaos and heartbreak and sorrow is happening.

7 comments :

Lee-Anne said...

I understand completely how you feel Rachel. We are in Upper Riccarton, 6km from Hagley Park, in relative comfort. Here we have have flushing toilets, running water (although not safe to drink) and electricity. Amazingly blessed really.
We too had a couple of hours panic. Three people we knew were in Discovery School, 5 stories above the bus exchange. Another story of a friend in Woolston, whose elderly mother suffered multiple fractures. They took four and a half hours to get to Christchurch Hospital, mere kilometres away. She's now recovering in Southern Cross Hospital.
Lee-Anne

Cate said...

We feel even more weird sitting up here in Auckland also glued to our tv and feeling totally helpless to do anything other than donate and offer any Christchurch friends a place to escape to.

Cottage Tails said...

I just haven't got the words.
Watching tv & trying to comprehend it all. Very sad
Pleased that you guys are doing ok

Love Leanne

Sandy Addison said...

I loved what you have written Rach It so conveys what you are feeling. I know what you mean about the guilt 2 days after the floods I was sitting in a park 2 ridges over from one of the suburbs that had been severely flooded and feeling that relief but also the concern. Tomorrow in Mainly Music we will praying with the families for Christchurch.

vegemitevix said...

How wonderful it is that you and your loved ones are safe. I understand your feeling of guilt though, I feel it too when people over here in the UK ask if my family and friends are ok and I have to admit that they are well out of the danger zone, in Australia and in the North Island.

The South African Kiwis said...

Thanks for sharing that, accounts like yours make it ever more real to those of us who didn't experience it - and it helps us to pray more fervently.

Heather L. said...

Thanks for posting. I've been thinking a lot about you. I'm sure now you're going to always wonder when will the next one come.

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