Every year around this time a fog of depression starts to curl around my brain. An unshakeable sense of doom and an overwhelming understanding of my own mortality fills my head and makes my heart heavy with dread. I seem to lose the ability to cope, wanting to curl up in bed and sleep through it, to wait for the feelings to pass.
A quick glance at the calendar reminds me that another year has passed. 365 more days since the ground jumped and shook beneath my feet, the buildings crumbled, and the flames of life were so quick to be extinguished in 187 people.
Scenarios start to scurry around in my head like rats in an abandoned building. If my scooter had started, I know with no doubt in my mind that I would have met mum for lunch in town to dissect my first morning as a law student. It would have been us sitting in Cashel Mall while masonry and bricks tumbled around us. Instead, I was retrieving the lunch I had purchased earlier to avoid losing the carpark I had miraculously found earlier that day.
The sheer panic that engulfs you in moments of terror like these turns into a memory that lingers for a lifetime. The unknown. Families scattered, cell networks down, knowing it was bad but yet to discover just how close you came to losing someone you love. We were lucky. My mum and sister were in the right place at the right time. Both surrounded by death and destruction, bruised and emotionally broken, but alive.
7 years on, over 30,000 quakes later, the effects of that day remain, often impinging on my day to day life. Creeping up on me as I’m walking down the street, hand in hand with Luke, subconsciously looking out for things that could fall. Constantly questioning, what would come down in a quake? Has Luke run too far in front for me to pull him to safety? Moments of paralyzing fear make me want to take him home and wrap him up where I know he’s safe.
I know that life goes on, and for the most part, mine has. I have a beautiful boy who has an amazing father. We might not be together anymore, but our friendship is stronger than it’s ever been. Regardless of how great things are, every year around this time, I can’t help but remember just how different my life could have been. So tonight, I’ll hug Luke a little tighter and for a little longer, I’ll make sure my family knows exactly how much I love them and I’ll go to sleep with the families who no longer have that privilege at the front of my mind.
Kia Kaha Christchurch