On Friday afternoon I was with my Year 13 Geography class in the computer room. It was the last lesson of the day and I think, as normal on a Friday afternoon, mentally most of their brains had already left the building. They were planning what they were going to get up to during the weekend and only about ten percent of their concentration was going into the task I had set them.
At 2.31pm the tiled floor of the room began to shake. I think I probably stood still for a few seconds to check I wasn't imagining it and when I looked up all eyes in the room were on me! I told them to get under the desks and dived under the nearest one myself. The ten students turned to me and a few dived under as well, but a few predictably stood there and laughed until the big jolt came and then they all ended up crowded together under the desks as the monitors rattled overhead.
I huddled under the desk as the shaking got bigger and thought to myself "you're not bloody laughing now" as the pile of books I had placed on the desk moments before toppled over.
I think it really only lasted about a minute at the most and slowly we all emerged rather shaken. The kids had lost their bravado and were all looking at me for answers about what would happen now. I didnt want to tell them I wasn't sure as the earthquake drill was planned for next week. So I headed to the doorway in the hope of seeing a member of senior management.
Thankfully one appeared and told us to keep the kids calm and in the classroom. Easier said than done!
Most of the kids got on their cellphones to try and get hold of family. Initally the networks were too overwhelmed but finally most were able to check everyone was okay. It was at this point that the kids asked me if there was going to be a bigger quake and if the "big one" was going to hit Wellington. I am a Geography teacher but not a siesmologist! I was honest with them and said I really didn't know.
You know something is scary when an 18 year old boy looks to you for reassurance.
Like most people in this region I wanted to get hold of my own kids and check the other half was okay in Wellington. Thankfully he works in a building with Quake Breakers so is relatively safe. As it turns out Wellington came away from this quake, again relatively unscathed. It was rather surreal watching the mass exodous from the city. Most city workers were told to head home after the quake as they were many large aftershocks. As the trains were haulted this meant that many people were left stranded and ended up hitch hiking. The state highway became packed with cars full of strangers swapping survival stories.
My kids were well looked after at their school and friends offered to pick them up if I could not get to them. Its very reassuring that despite the fact we have no family over here we have made lots of good friends that have become like family.
Events like this bring people together and I have swapped stories with nieghbours and people I met at the takeaway last night. The description of the hot fat in the vats swaying back and foward onto the floor was very memorable.
Do these recent events make us regret moving to New Zealand? No. Earthquakes are scary but, like all extreme events, make you more aware of whats important in life. The life we have over here is not something I think we could achieve anywhere else. I sincerely hope that the faults beneath us will settle again and go back to sleep, but if they don't, we will just take all the precautions we can and carry on with life!