Inside The Forbidden City

Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Yesterday my husband's office was allowed access to their red-stickered building in the heart of Christchurch city.

He volunteered to go in and help retrieve important items, like the Father's Day gift the children gave him last year (a cup with disappearing photos), his umbrella and his new glasses case, as well as a long list of items from his colleagues. It read a bit like this.... "in the second drawer down, in the back on the right is....." They were given 3 hours to get what they needed out of there, as well as files and computers and other work-related items. They are not sure what is going to happen to their building. It has no visible damage, but the building next to it has a very precarious lift tower which could collapse on top of their office building. And the ground under the buildings is pretty torn up. It's situated very close to the Avon River which pretty much undermined all the ground around it during the Quake. You see, our ancestors built the city on marshy, reclaimed ground back in the early 1800's. I guess they didn't know about the faultlines then.

The event of going into the forbidden parts of the city was a highly orchestrated event, according to Robin. Security checks, photo identification and an escorted drive through the area to their building where they were accompanied by Recovery Staff into their office. The first thing that struck Robin was the silence.

Absolute quiet as they stepped out of the cars. No people, no cars, no noise.

He described going into the office like visiting a ghost town, and it had a musty, mouldy, dank smell inside. In the staffroom books were open on the table, a newspaper lay like someone had just left it just for a moment. A lunchbag, biscuits open in the middle of the table. Coffee grounds in the coffee machine had gone mouldy. Food from the fridge had spilled out onto the floor. A loaf of bread, newly bought on the day lay perfectly intact, except for the mould growing inside it.

 Here is my husband's desk. See all those rows of files in the back - that's where he sat, and those filing cabinets are what he had to climb over to get to the door after the earthquake stopped.

 This was the filing room. All those large cabinets were bolted to the floor and had bracing. They had aisles between them for the clerical staff to stand and file - as you can see the quake has thrown them off their bracings and they have fallen into each other. It is a miracle that no-one was in there at the time.

The office floor . . .

And this is the reason why it is dangerous to go back into their building . . . the precarious lift tower next to their office . . .

Every day I am grateful to God that the tower didn't fall onto my husband's office in the big quake, and that they all got out ok. His desk was right under it on that side.


tartankiwi said...

My husband got the chance to go into his office a few weeks ago. It had quite a profound effect on him and his sleep was disturbed for a few nights. Beforehand he said that he trusted his building and thought it was mainly superficial damage, but after seeing it his opinion changed. He didn't go back when he was offered a second chance to go in. Hope your husband is ok with it all.

Naturally Carol said...

I have just found you from South African Kiwi. It is so interesting to read about it all from an inside perspective and yet so sad to see life interrupted like that and know the fear and panic that would have been present at the time. That lift building looks so precarious with the big crack through the middle. I am glad he got out alive with all the things people wanted.

Anonymous said...

What a poignant post. TFS. Thank goodness the tower held and your hubby got out all right.

Julze said...

oh my...I'm just sitting here, speechless! Wow! God was sure protecting your husband on the 22nd Feb!!

Shearer's Girl said...

Thinking of you all in Christchurch.

~Rebekah~ said...

Oh how I'm grateful to God for protecting your husband and his office. I remember watching everything unfold on the T.V. and it just brought tears to my eyes. To see the damage first-hand even those HUGE filing systems fall. I can't imagine how you'd manage to decipher all the papers on the floor and files that were lost.

In any case, I don't care so much about the loss of paperwork but those lives that were spared by the grace of God from a situation that may have been more disastrous had that lift building fell. To God be the glory!

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