Feeling shaky? Cantabrians are here for you

1:03 pm on 15 November 2016

First Person - Cantabrians are here for you. We want you to feel safe and sane.

Earthquakes suck. No two ways about it. But take it from a Cantabrian, time will develop you a decent gallows humour, I promise.

no caption

Photo: 123rf

Unfortunately, that sense of humour is a fair way down the aftershock timeline. It will emerge after a lot of forlorn swearing while you clean up the mess that Mother Nature made. One day you will learn that Blu Tack is a friend to ornaments. Or, eventually, that ornaments are not your friend at all.

I can promise though, that friends and neighbours count for everything at this time. One day you will laugh about digging your own toilet in your back yard.

I live in Christchurch, where you may have heard we've had a quake or 10,000.

I was still up when Sunday night's quake hit. I have a habit of being awake just before big ones arrive. In September 2010, I was sitting up in bed waiting for news websites to refresh their morning stories when that 7.1 bucking bronco started up.

Immediately, I knew it was an earthquake and ran for my doorway. I was happy my washing basket tipped towards me, so at least I could clothe myself as each piece came tumbling out.

Again, I was awake at midnight when Monday's quake made its presence felt.

My cat had been run over a few days before and my lounge was filled with flowers. While the quake kept rolling, seeming to have no best before date, all I could do was make the judgment not to panic. I knew it couldn't have been centred in Christchurch otherwise, there would have been shattered glass and water everywhere.

You come to create some sort of touchstone. I try not to feel alarmed if everything stays upright. You somehow learn to love the tremors that gently roll but never the sharp ones that rock.

This one, however, went on for an incredibly long time, long enough to worry it was the Alpine Fault finally rupturing.

If you can keep calm during a quake, that's good. I ran during the February one and the buckling flipped me headfirst into a wall. That was my neck stuffed for almost a year.

But, you see, once the actual ground shaking has passed, there are the physiological effects. Science has taken place in the earth's crust and then a whole other type of science takes place in your body and head. Panic, shock, forgetfulness, inability to make decisions. If you can't remember where you parked your car for the next year, that's perfectly normal.

For us in Christchurch, this quake might not have been destructive but it hurts us too. We have muscle memory. For every large quake, somewhere deep in our amygdala, we know a gentle shake can ramp up to something more violent and deadly. We know we will have to go through the aftershock sequence again and it brings up terrible memories, luckily mixed with the sense of humour and camaraderie we have developed over six years.

We feel for you, people stuck in North Canterbury, worried and alone. We feel for you, people in Wellington, surrounded by tall buildings. All those people who now suffer unending questions in their heads.

We stand beside you in spirit and we will help where we can.

Find solidarity in social media. Turn off the news if you're sick of hearing about it, or if it upsets you. Take some time to breathe.

Don't worry about crying in front of people. All these things are perfectly OK.

And know you have a friend in all of us down here. We're not about saying 'we told you so' - we are about empathy and advice. We've learned a lot over the last six years and we want you to use our experience to stay safe and, most importantly, sane.

*Beck Eleven is a freelance writer and columnist, based in Christchurch.

  • Making an EQC claim: What you need to know
  • Your quake questions answered
  • The earthquake aftermath in pictures
  • NZ moving to 'period of more earthquakes'
  • Kaikoura will suffer economically after quake - PM