Thankful that our evacuation plan worked. Within seconds of the first big shock everyone was out of the house and into the truck where we waited out the first of the aftershocks in relative warmth and comfort, able to listen to updates on the radio. In between jolts, we were joined by neighbours until everyone in our shared driveway was safe and we took turns comforting the terrified babies and checking the houses for damage. It wasn’t until power was restored late Saturday afternoon and we saw the devastation for ourselves that we realised how very fortunate we were. A few broken plates and glasses. Nothing really.
The toll on people, however, is indescribable. Everyone is exhausted, physically and mentally shattered. Nerves are frayed and the feeling of panic and dread is a constant companion. The merest rumble is enough to make us stop in our tracks, hearts racing, poised for flight. Sleep is fleeting, waking in wild-eyed heart racing panic 3 or 4 times a night to fling ourselves under the nearest door frame, wondering if this is finally the promised 6.something aftershock that will smash the rest of our glass and china and topple what’s left of the city’s heritage buildings. Once awake it’s impossible to get back to sleep, adrenalin keeping every fibre alert, poised ready to grab what is most precious as we escape the shuddering house again… and again. Schools are closed til Monday, not so much because of the damage or the danger, but because people need to be with their families and they need a break from this knife-edge way of life. As if we could bear to let our children out of our sight anyway. We make light of it to family and friends who call, concerned, offering beds in other cities but life feels fragile and hysteria is very close to the surface.
So we carry on, we muddle through, we take care of each other, we wait. Really, we’re fine. But thanks for asking.