Early on September 4th 2010 most of Canterbury was shaken awake (but not my husband who somehow managed to sleep through) by a large earthquake - a 1-in-100 year event. There was damage, but nothing that couldn't be fixed. Aftershocks where ongoing. Some larger than others. Everyone thought that the likelihood of another "big one" was minimal. Mother Nature had let off some steam and things would slowly get back to normal.
There was large aftershock the day after Christmas that year.
12.51pm February 22nd 2011 and another 1-in-100 year earthquake. But this time it was very different. The middle of the day. People out and about in the city centre. Workers. School children. Violent shaking that seemed to go on forever. Buildings, roads, homes, lives disintegrating in clouds of dust. Death. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Strangers helping strangers. Waiting.
By the end of the day the central city was cordoned off. People were still trapped in broken buildings. Waiting. I don't think that many of us in Christchurch realised just how bad it was initially.
A huge dust cloud hung over the city. Help was coming from every direction.
Somehow The Press was delivered as usual the next morning. That was the only thing that was as normal. Limited phone, intermittent power and water. Still a huge dust cloud. The sounds of demolition and collapse. The army and its tanks on the street. Soldiers patrolling the edges of the red zone while work continued amongst the rubble.
Coming down off the hills one evening a few weeks on I had a view over the city. It took me several minutes to realise what was wrong with that view. There was nothing in the central city. It was just black.
Five years and many thousands of earthquakes/aftershocks have passed.
Our daughter was 13 and three weeks into her first year at high school. What should have been an exciting time for her became frightening. Months of disruption. Aftershocks. Site-sharing. Today she is a young woman starting a new phase of her life as a university student.
Today it's five years since 185 people lost their lives. It's five years of the "new normal". Christchurch is still broken. It will never be as it was. It will still be Christchurch - just a different Christchurch.
Christchurch is still home.