They say that animals can sense earthquakes...well, when a massive earthquake struck at 4.35am 4th September 2010 I had to push my cat, Azra off my chest as the house started shaking violently.
Similar to the haze of a newborn baby crying at night, I was standing wedged in Tyler's doorway before I fully woke up. My sleep-drugged brain was processing information rapidly even as I was waking up...wow, this is a huge earthquake, thats stuff breaking downstairs I can hear, Keeley is awake and clinging to me and I am having to yell at Tyler to wake him up to call him to the relative safety of the doorway.
When the shaking stopped, that clarity of mind and calmness I have noticed before in moments of great stress kicked in and it was a quick check to see the kids were okay and the urgent need to get to a safer place than upstairs. However, that clarity did not include figuring out that the power was out as it was pitch black and alarms were going off all over the neighbourhood, and I still flicked the light switch several times till Tyler said "the power is out Mum"
I said "OK guys, that was a big earthquake, we are going to go downstairs. There are going to be aftershocks, so lets get there before the next one happens. Get some shoes on and meet me downstairs in the doorway at the bottom of the stairs" While they did that, I grabbed all the bedding and threw it over the bannisters.
After a quick check on the neighbours, and frantically texting my family to make sure they were ok, we curled up on the couch in the bay window, waiting for first light to survey the damage and start the cleanup. The motto was: if the aftershocks made things rattle we got under the doorway, if it was just a wobble we stayed on the couch.
I found that I was woefully unprepared for a major emergency - no torch, no analogue phone, no radio etc. We used my cellphone for light, and I managed to salvage some LED tealights from the kitchen someone from an antenatal class gave me to mark where the doorway was for the children.
Being incommunicado was the worst - my family had managed to get through via text, but I had no idea whether it was just Christchurch or if the big one had happened in Wellington and we just copped the tail end of it.
Something else I never knew was that there are soooo many aftershocks, I knew there would be some, but you never hear on the TV about big earthquakes having aftershocks for months on end...and I never knew that sometimes the first earthquake is not necessarily the worst...