– Colombo Street, Sydenham. My story begins when I drove through Buchan Street when the quake hit. I drove at about 40km/h and I could hardly keep my car on the road. It was also impossible for me to brake because my foot could not reach the brake pedal due to the violent shacking of the quake.
Reaching Wordsworth Street I saw the dust clouds going up in the sky an I knew that a number buildings in Colombo Street had collapsed. Some of them sustained damage from the September quake and I expected it would be bad.
I parked my car at the corner of Buchan and Wordsworth Street and ran into Colombo Street end ended at the “Tasty Tucker Cafe”.
People were already busy to retrieve injured people from the rubble. From memory the adjacent collapsed through the roof of the cafe. People asked if somebody had first aid experience and if they could take care of the wounded. I have been trained by St John as a Medical First Responder and ran back to my car to get my first aid kit. On my return I assisted with the retrieval of an elderly lady who had severe injuries. She was not responding and was dragged out with the help of others and I together with Wendy [Story 104] administered CPR. It became clear that it was a lost battle. There were constant aftershocks and on advice of the police we made the decision to give up.
It is one of the most difficult things I ever done…....
Going back into the building we retrieved another woman who had back injuries. On a board (I still have no idea where that came from), used at a stretcher we got her out.
She was transported to the parking area behind Spotlight. She was in severe pain and wanted to turn on her side. To prevent further injury I had to stop her from doing that. However she was deteriorating and started to vomit and at that stage she had to be turned onto her side. It turned out that there was a brick under her back that must have aggravated the pain she already endured. The brick was the last thing I expected!
Another elderly couple who were taken out of the same cafe were in the mean time transported to the same parking place and place on mattresses which came from the shops in the area. He was also badly injured and his wife who had lesser injuries was comforting him while the were side by side on the ground. I was so confusing to see the mayhem and yet the love and care that she was giving to him.
During the time I spent in the area I had one thing on my mind. My wife. She works in Cashel Street close to the Westpac building. I did not know if she was still alive or what…..
I sent her a text telling her that I was ok but did not receive a response. running towards the CBD was not an option, I had now idea if I could reach her or know were she was.
Hope for the best was all I could do and keep assisting the injured.
It was around I believe 3:00pm or there about when the first emergency services arrived and the wounded were taken care of. When it was confirmed that my help was no longer needed I walked back to my car. Walking through Wordsworth Street and wanting to cross the intersection with Colombo street I was stopped by a policeman. I saw the covered body of the elderly lady we tried to resuscitate and at that stage I could not longer hold my emotions.
(When I was at the car park behind Spotlight I was already overwhelmed but swallowed it away in order to help the people in need. ) I have seen badly injured and dead people before but the scale of what had happened that day was too much.
When you work in an ambulance you have all the equipment you need but that day I had basically nothing and that is very difficult and frustrating to deal with.
The policeman was very supportive and he put a hand on my shoulder and told me to let go. It was an relieve to have him there. He took a statement about the the elderly lady who died and advised me to walk another way back to the car due to the risk of more collapsing buildings. On my way to the car the was another aftershock and I struggled to stay upright. I was drained and still not sure what had happened to my wife.
Driving back to Oxford where I live I finally made contact with her and learned that she was OK and on her way home. The best message I ever had!!!
When I walked towards the front door she was standing there and I had another good cry to get the experiences of the day out of my system.
Looking back to the day I can say that it had a big impact. The situation at the cafe was bad, not able to give the care I wanted difficult and finally being confronted with a situation that could end my live made me feel very small.
There were also good things that day. The enormous effort that people put in to help another human being is beautiful to see. The support of retailers and companies who dragged there goods out of the shops and warehouses, towels, first aid gear, chairs, mattresses, etc to help people in need. No question were asked it just happened.
Month have passed and I am as good as free from the bad memories from that day. Sometimes I feel a bit scared when I hear a noise or feel movement that reminds me of the earthquake. I have worked for a number of month in the CBD were I was involved with demolition work. It has made me more aware what devastation there has been in the greater Christchurch area. There are many people who suffered badly, still do, or never suffer again…........ I survived and was able to help others. I am grateful every day that that was given to me.
I am just a grain of sand in an endless universe.
I have no say about what happens in a day.
What happened can not be changed.
The future is unknown.
All I know is that I can enjoy live to the full.
Every second I live.