My account of the Christchurch Earthquake

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    Nobody has posted their story. Here goes from me.

    I just heard that Christchurch is off the list for the world cup. Too bad, they have been waiting with baited breath for years. It was to be their shining star. Probably necessary, They lost a lot of hotel rooms. A number of the USAP hotels are severely damaged but might open at later dates. I’m guessing that the winfly people will have no problem getting rooms. For mainbody, we’ll wait and see.

    I sort of missed the big first quake. All morning long, Eggs, Rocky and I sat at the Yellow Rocket in the square and entertained any Ice folk that passed through. We had arrived in cheech the night before and we were just getting used to noise and street scenes. At some point we took the bus to the Antarctic Center to check in and mail some boxes home. I was on a bus coming back into town with Eggs and Rocky. Maybe 10 minutes out when the biggest quake hit. The bus shook like it had a bad flat tire. The driver knew it was an earthquake and was not concerned, after all, they’ve had almost 4000 aftershocks since the big Sept quake. As we got closer to town it was apparent that this was really different, there was increasing devestation. First broken windows, then collapsed buidings. At Manchester street there was too much debris on the road for the bus to continue. We got off and walked. Buildings were down everywhere.With each of the really big aftershocks, there was still debris coming down from the building tops.

    Eggs and I were staying at the Y. Rocky at the Windsor hotel. We went there first. The Windsor was in sad shape. The upper story brick walls had collapsed and a big crack formed across the front. Nobody going into there for a while for their bags. The YMCA was initially open and they let us in to get our stuff. There was no power, but emergency lights were on. I was on the 4th floor for one of the aftershocks. Scared the “$#@^%^% ” out of me. Actually panic was more the word. I was in a dark stairwell and all I could think of at the time was the twin towers collapsing. Like I said, total panic on my part. I don’t remember how I got out. All I know is that I was shaking for the next 10 minutes. Up to that point the quake was interesting but not scary. That changed everything.

    Later, Eggs helped me get my bags moved to the Williams annex second floor where I was staying the next night. Just in case,I grabbed by laptop and passport and some warm clothes for my friends that had nothing. I left the rest of my stuff in the room. Eggs and I were going to let anyone who wanted sleep the night on the floor in our rooms, but at 7pm or so they closed the YMCA. The staff said we were going to get really cold and let us get a blanket and pillow before we were directed to the evacuation point in the park. I had to leave my bags behind. I still had my laptop and some warm clothes. At the park, there must have been a thousand people there. Eggs, Dr. Harry, and a number of ice friends were all together. There was a light drizzle but we were safe, out in the open and with friends. At some point they moved the disabled people from under some canopies and let us move out of the rain, which by now was coming down pretty hard. It was looking like a long cold wet night ahead of us, when out of the blue a big burly guy in soaking wet clothing with a big wet black dog show up and said he had room in his house for 5 people. Nobody took him up on it, so Eggs volunteered us and off we went.

    It was a mile and a half walk in the dark and in pouring rain to their house, but they had power and it was warm. Craig and Kylee had sent their children out of town and gave 4 of us their children’s beds. They dried our clothing in their dryer and they fed us a sausage dinner. There was only a trickle of water coming out the tap and that had to be boiled, so no showers and precious little water to drink. We drank wine instead and generally were having fun. Eggs got the Sponge Bob bed, I got the pink princess bed. Nobody slept too well, there were still numerous big aftershocks all night. It was weird, before they hit, there was a rumble noise like a big truck going by your house, then boom the jolt. You couldn’t help but think every time you heard that noise that the next jolt might bring down the house, but it held.

    The next day we tried to get the blankets back to the Y, but the army had moved in and cordoned off the city and would not let us in. We made our way to the CDC at the Antarctic center and found out that they opened the auditorium for people to sleep in. It was temporary and would close in a few days, so Eggs and I rented a car. Christy L joined us and we drove to Hanmer Springs. It was nice. We found a camp where we could rent little cabins for 25 dollars a night. Just a bed and heater in the cabin with separate cooking and bath houses. Pretty much hung out there for 2 weeks and regained our sanity. Hanmer was full of earthquake refugees. The first night the grocery store was wiped out, but got resupplied pretty quck. None of us had clothing. pretty much what we were wearing. I finally broke down and bought 2 pair of underwear at a ritzy clothing shop for 32 dollars. I should have kept the receipt. 2 weeks later we were back in Cheech ready to fly home on Monday, On Saturday the YMCA was able to get into the building and got our bags. I think we were the only tourists in town that got our luggage back.

    All in all an eye opening experience. Mostly at first I was concerned with close friends. All of whom were Ok. Then food and water. There was none initially. The second day Craig drove us around looking for open markets. We found little. It was only at Hamner two hours north that we were able to buy food. I’m going to increase the amound of emergency canned food at my house. You never know. I got home just after the tsunami from Japan hit California. No damage to the town, but the harbor and all the fishing industry there is pretty much wiped out. Disasters seem right around the corner now. One minute you are fat and happy, the next-???.

    Final tally, they are expecting a death toll to go above 200 in Cheech. To me that is amazingly low considering all the downed buildings. Still, with 595 of my fellow Antarcticans having just landed in Christchurch over the previous 2 weeks. Every one of them was accounted for and safe. I feel pretty lucky.


    This is pretty cool. If you were there and thought you felt a lot of aftershocks, this should confirm it for you.


    Thanks for sharing all of the details. I’ve been following this story very closely, as I might have been there had my job in VA not been extended. It will take many many months before things even start to get restored in the CBD, it is frustrating to read the sad tales of the business owners who can’t get to their businesses, but on the other hand there are things to be dealt with like the 26-story Grand Chancellor Hotel which needs to be demo’d before it collapses. I am refreshed that all of the USAPers were safe and accounted for.


    I’m pretty amazed that none of the USAP people were seriously hurt. When I look at all the photos of the collapsed places we all visit regularly, I just can’t believe how lucky we all were. Hopefully things will be cleared and on the way to recovery in 6 months.

    Been There

    As I have said many a time over the years….folks in the USAP/USARP have more than their share of luck, usually said while shaking my head in wonder after a long and sleepless night. Someone up there likes us.:D 😀



    Mike – thanks for sharing your story. This is the first time I’ve logged onto Antarctic Memories in a while, and so the first I heard your story. I thought about you during that day, and wondered where you were. I remembered eating dinner with you and Eggs the night before, and wondered what became of you during the earthquake. I posted my account on Facebook. Should I post it here, or is that old news by now? What a crazy experience! – Zondra


    Hi Zondra! I for one would really like to read your story here…


    By all means post away. It’s an earthquake thread after all. I continue to look at photos of downtown and I can’t help but wonder how we all got out of that mostly intact. I especially have a hard time looking at the busses that had buildings collapse on them seeing as I was in a bus at the time.


    Thanks for posting that Mike. It’s been forever since I logged on and I wanted to come here and check to see how everyone was faring following the quake. Good to know the death toll was low and no USAP personnel were among them.

    Stay safe everyone.


    Earthquake Recount, by Zondra Skertich – 22 February, 2011

    I had just left Antarctica yesterday. Ruby (the Subaru) was waiting for me when I arrived, and I drove her to downtown. We got in late at night, and weren’t able to go out for any sort of ethnic food. I ended up at the Dux and did get to have a Ginger Tom. And I took a nice bath before bed. There’s a couple of things marked off of my list of things to do in Christchurch.

    In the morning, I joined many Ice friends for breakfast at the Windsor. We sang happy birthday to Pat. I wanted to be social, but I also felt the need to get my errands run so that I could get out of town and start my holiday. I left my friends to head out and was quite efficient at getting my errands run. I exchanged a bunch of money, I got car insurance for Ruby, I got a mobile phone, I made some travel arrangements, I bought a pair of shorts, I got some yarn for Barb. I got all these errands done with time to head to the CDC (Clothing Distribution Center – the Christchurch home for all us Ice people), to organize my bags and boxes, and try to get some things sent out while I still had APO privileges. The APO (Air Post Office – a U.S. Military Post Office that we get to use for 10 days after leaving the Ice) was open until 3:00, and I wanted to get done with my sorting by then so that I could send things away and be left with just a hand carry bag for all my travels. The goal was to leave Christchurch the next morning.

    My reward for getting all my errands done was to stop at the New World grocery store on Fendalton between down town and the CDC (which is at the airport) north of town. I had been fantasizing about the produce aisle for months now. I was craving avocadoes and other freshies. I got a bag of avocadoes for myself, as well as one for the winteroverers in McMurdo that I would send them when I got to the CDC. I got a container of cherry tomatoes, a peach, and a couple of red bell peppers. I figured that was enough for now. I was very hungry as I was shopping and my stomach was growling. This was the moment I’d been dreaming of for so long. I couldn’t find the peanut butter aisle, to buy Terry her special peanut butter. I found the juice aisle and grabbed a nice glass bottle of organic Feijoa/Apple Juice. I figured I should leave the store and head up to the CDC to sort my stuff. Besides I was hungry and just wanted to start eating my prized gems of freshies. I made my way to the check out counters.

    It was just about 1:00 pm. I was waiting in line behind an elderly couple and putting my items on the conveyor belt when the earthquake hit. It didn’t take long to figure out that this aftershock was bigger than the other ones. Everything fell off of the shelves, all you could hear was glass shattering. I was near the wine aisle and those bottles were flying across and hitting the aisle across from them. The front windows exploded. I had nowhere to go, there was nothing to hide under. I huddled close with the other lady in the checkout line. The earthquake lasted forever. The signs hanging above the checkout counters were bouncing around violently. There was nowhere to hide from them if they fell. It was hard to stand, walking was certainly out of the question, even if there was somewhere to go. There were the exploding windows to the front, there were the crashing shelves to the back. I guess at the checkout line under the signs was an OK place to be in comparison? I was worried the ceiling was going to crash down, and I had nothing to protect me from it. At some point the electricity went out. I could see a car parked just outside the windows bouncing up and down and all around. Like I said, the earthquake lasted forever, so there was time to see all these things. In reality, it was probably only about 30 seconds long. I haven’t yet heard the exact amount of time it lasted.

    Afterwards people were shouting around to see if anyone was injured. From what I saw, a few people were cut up from falling glass jars in the food aisles, but nothing worse. I hugged the lady who was by me in line, we held on to each other as her husband was figuring out how to purchase the groceries. I realized that I wouldn’t be able to purchase my goodies. I considered just shoplifting them, the store had lost all their inventory anyway, what’s a few more items? I looked at the shelf where I had gotten my juice, every single other bottle was broken on the floor. Only my bottle survived. I should have just kept it, right? But I’m a good honest person, so I left the store empty handed. At this point, I was still focused on not getting my freshies, and not thinking as much about the bigger picture, other than what damage was done at the New World grocery store. Discussions with others included wondering if this was worse than the Boxing Day aftershock. No one I spoke with at the store seemed to think it was worse than the original 7.1 quake back on September 4th. As we poured out into the parking lot, people were trying to make calls on their mobile phones, and it was a chaotic mess of people from multiple buildings. It was starting to sink in a little bit. I saw a scared dog. His (her?) ears were down, his tail was down, and he was running around not knowing what to do. In the next few minutes I saw several dogs in the same condition. This is proper Christchurch, not a 3rd world country, dogs don’t just run free through the streets. They were not strays, they were pets who were scared and looking for their humans. It was a moment where animals and humans were on the same page.

    I stood there with Ruby, and I didn’t know what to do. I figured I should continue on to the CDC, and be with my Ice family. Besides, I still had packing and mailing to do, and I wanted to get out of town even more so now. The roads were a mess of traffic. Luckily it was a left turn out of New World (one of the reasons why I always stop at that particular store). The radio was on in the car. I’d been listening to the channel that was already tuned in when I picked up Ruby. In my few minutes driving between downtown and the New World, I’d been listening to old country music, my favorite. Old country was still playing as I pulled out on to the road. A few minutes later, an announcer came on to talk. His first report that there had been an earthquake. This was one of the most emotional talks I’d heard, he didn’t have any info about the earthquake, or damage, but he knew it was big, and he just asked people to pray. I’m not a religious person, but this announcement was powerful and I started to cry.

    Then Ruby started bouncing around all over the place. Did she blow out a tire? Is something wrong with her engine? Wait, other people are pulling over, even though at this moment there aren’t any emergency vehicles passing by. Stop the car. She’s still shaking violently. It was a 5 point something aftershock. Then it was over, and road chaos ensued. Traffic lights were all out. Luckily I was on the main road, it was the people on the side roads that were having a hard time merging. I was still crying, the emotions of the quake were starting to catch up with me. I could see that other drivers were crying. Luckily I’ve driven on the left side of the road a lot, I knew this road well, and between Ruby and I, we weren’t confused about where to go. There were no cracks in the road, and no trees or buildings down either. I figured I’d see those things, but the only chaos in this neighborhood was the traffic, and the crowds of people who had left nearby buildings. There were people everywhere. The roundabout by the airport was in gridlock. They were in the process of evacuating the airport, and those of us entering the roundabout from the other side were not helping things. The turn to the CDC is the 5th and final one of the roundabout and it took me about 10 minutes to get to it.

    I was comforted to arrive at the CDC. Everything was in tact, and there was no sign of damage. I stepped in to the APO and asked if they’d still be open until 3:00 (still, just wanting to get my chores done), and the nice gentleman there said no, he was closing RIGHT NOW. He looked scared. OK, I could mail my stuff tomorrow, right? I stepped in to the CDC and found that my backpack was still balanced on top of the box I’d set it on last night. I couldn’t believe that it hadn’t fallen down. Other people who were sorting their things didn’t seem the least bit rattled. In fact, none of the Ice people at the CDC seemed rattled. The Christchurch locals were rattled, though. Mike had just heard that his house was flooding. Marlene was trying to figure out how her kids were. They wanted to close up and kick us out. I didn’t have time to sort anything, I just grabbed my things and brought them to the car.

    Marlene had a radio on. We gathered around it and started hearing a little bit about the damage downtown. All public buildings were being evacuated. That sounded serious. The cathedral had collapsed and apparently there was some more damage. Woah, that’s a big deal! What do we do now? Some Ice people wanted to head back to downtown. Their belongings were all in hotels. I had actually checked out of my hotel and had all my belongings with me. Wow, what luck. Some people were scheduled to fly out, but didn’t know what to do now. The travel office was busy. None of the Ice people seemed as shaken up as I was. I recounted my experience at the grocery store and people were starting to realize that this wasn’t just another aftershock – there’s damage out there. No damage at the CDC, yet a mess other places. Although I’d had a more intense experience than the others who’d been at the CDC, I still had no clue as to how severe it really was.

    I commented on the presence of electricity. Someone asked me if the electricity was out elsewhere, I said that it was out just a few blocks away. I realized that with electricity, there might be internet. I stepped into the computer kiosk in the travel office and found an empty computer. I sent an email to my closest family members letting them know that I was OK. James didn’t even hear about the earthquake until he saw my email. It’s better that way. Facebook was already a mess of people talking about the quake. People were already starting to look for friends via facebook. I started trying to figure out my options. I was supposed to stay with people near downtown, but all my chores were miraculously done, though, and I could leave town. I just needed to organize my things and send them off. They told me not to worry about APO temporary privileges and that I could mail my stuff in 5 weeks when I return. I really just wanted to leave town. There’s the back way out from the CDC, down Orchard Road that goes by the nice meat and produce market…. My instincts were that I could go that way and just head out of town.

    I spent time on facebook, barely keeping up with what was going on, it was happening so fast. I facebook chatted with my Mom, who warned me of aftershocks, and then suddenly another aftershock hit. Everyone in the kiosk room scattered. I dove under the desk I was at. But it was a mild aftershock and then it was over. I continued to reassure my Mom that I was OK. People at different computers were starting to pull up pictures off the internet from downtown. Wow, downtown was a mess. We started to worry about our friends. People could be hurt, with damage like that, right? Then we heard that a couple of busses had been crushed by falling buildings and that the people on the busses were dead. Dead people? This is getting quite serious. It’s starting to feel like 9/11 in NYC. On facebook I connected with my friend Karen (none Ice person) who was 100 kilometers north of Christchurch at Gore Bay. I asked her if I could come stay with her – I just wanted to leave Christchurch. She said that the batch she was renting buckled in the quake and that she was at her elderly neighbor’s house, but that I could certainly join them. I was shaken and just ready to get out of there.

    I logged off the computer, got in the car and started driving. No Ice people wanted to join me, though… they all stuck around the CDC. I heard later about Ice refugees joining them at the CDC for the night, over a hundred people sleeping on the floor there, with song circles in the parking lot. It’s not usually busy going the back way out of the airport, but there was a lot of traffic and lots of people walking down the street, hauling luggage. I rolled down the window as I passed the meat and produce market to ask if they were open (the traffic was so slow, that I could do that). They said they were closed. Still, no avocado for me. Traffic was gridlock heading out of the city. Not a lot heading in to the city though. Mostly just emergency vehicles. I didn’t even think about the fact that the bridges over the Waimakariri & Ashley Rivers were in tact and open was a miracle. Ruby was at half a tank of gas. It would be good to get fuel before getting out into the countryside. The gas station lines at Woodend were horrendous! I would be there forever, if I could even jocky for a place near the pumps. The gas station in Waikuku was out of gas. Half a tank could get me to Gore Bay, right? Finally at Amberly, the line at the one functioning gas station wasn’t too terribly long, maybe a 10 minute wait. They were only taking cash. Luckily I’d exchanged cash in the morning, before the earthquake. I didn’t get to use the toilet, as it was busy and I had to get Ruby out of the way to make room for other vehicles coming in. You always see gas station lines on the news when there’s a disaster like this, and now I was in one of those lines.

    All my favorite roadside produce stands were closed. I wasn’t hungry anymore anyway and avocadoes were becoming less and less important. As I drove, I listened to the radio. I started to get a better idea of extensive damage that had been done. The radio was saying that this 6.3 was worse than the 7.1 last September. It was shallower and closer to town, and that made it worse. They said there were deaths, but they didn’t say how many. I realized that thinking that I was going to die in the grocery store wasn’t just a thought I’d had, it was very near reality. I cried. I was so thankful to be leaving. I was so thankful to have Ruby. I’m so glad Genevieve didn’t sell Ruby, and that she was letting me drive her. I was clinging to the closest friend I had: the red Subaru taking me away from the quake zone. What if I didn’t have Ruby? My schedule for the day would have been different. I probably would have taken the bus. Would it have been one of the busses that got crushed? I could have died! But I had a car, and all my belongings. I thought about the seriousness of the situation. My only inconveniences were that I didn’t have an avocado & I had to travel with all my belongings (while everyone else was separated from their stuff, including their passports). Oh, darn. Suddenly, not having an avocado wasn’t a big deal, it didn’t matter anymore. I had no appetite. The more I listened to the radio, the worse things sounded. There were more dead people. Were some of them my friends? I’d been on a flight with 104 people who got in late last night. Where were those people? I knew most of the people on my flight, and consider a lot of them to be good friends. Two flights had gotten in the day before, most of those people were still around Christchurch.

    I was in a mental fog. I almost missed the turns I needed to take to get to where I was going. I started watching TV news with Karen and Flora (who’s house we were at)… Things were aweful! This was way worse than the September quake. There was a triage center in Latimer Square. There was a makeshift mortuary. They were fighting the fires downtown with helicopters. They had run out of ambulances. Emergency services were beyond capacity and they were telling people to be patient with emergency services, self treat injuries if you can, and help people out if you are able to. Tables turned into stretchers, personal cars turned into ambulances. Downtown was flattened!! My grocery store experience was nothing compared to what happened downtown. Views of streets completely totaled, that I had driven on just 20 minutes before the quake hit. Buildings I had just been in an hour before the quake were completely crumbled. I had just been there. I’d interacted with these people. How was the girl who just sold me the car insurance? That building looked pretty damaged in the images I was seeing on TV. How was the guy who’d just sold me my new phone? That entire street was nothing but rubble.

    What about my Ice friends? It was hard to tear myself away from the TV to get on the internet to start looking for friends. I kept jumping back and forth, pacing between the two rooms. I was shaking. Facebook was a zoo. Everyone was doing head counts. Where is everybody? An hour or so before the quake, I bumped into Anne & Jim Pappas right in front of the cathedral, and they said they’d just talked to Sonia and that she was in Lyttleton, but would be in Christchurch for dinner tonight. We’d made that dinner date over a month ago. Lyttleton was the epicenter of the quake. How was Sonia? Why isn’t she answering my emails? What about Anne & Jim? I still haven’t scene their name on a safe list. What about Alesha & Kimber? I saw them before breakfast, they were traveling together, but they’re not showing up on an accounted for list. I’d had dinner with Mike Poole & Eggs the night before, where were they? Celeen had been playing her Ukulele last time I saw her, where was she now? Has anyone heard from Kressly? Kristin’s Fiance had met her at the airport the night before – had they gone straight back to Queenstown, or were they still in Christchurch? I sat next to Pauline on the flight yesterday, but knew nothing of her wherabouts since then. Right behind us were Charlie & Lonnie. Where are all these people? They’re not all on facebook, so they’re harder to track down. Where’s Pat? It’s her birthday and her name isn’t showing up either. In fact, no one I’d had breakfast with was showing up on the accounted for lists. I’ve never scene facebook posts pop up so quickly. It was impossible to keep up with it all. There was a running tally of known survivors on the I-drive in McMurdo. Michelle emailed it to me. At that moment there were only 79 people on the list. 591 known Ice people in Christchurch and only 79 of them were on the list. That’s when I broke down. My fellow Antarcticans are my family. They are some of my best friends in the entire world. Where are they? Why haven’t they gotten online to say that they’re OK? Watching the news, and trying to find everyone online was quite stressful.

    Eventually Karen and I returned to her batch, after her landlord declared it structurally OK. No internet. I watched the news nonstop. For the first time ever, New Zealand declared a national state of emergency. Someone on the TV called it the darkest day in New Zealand History. The images just kept getting worse, and the extensiveness of the destruction was becoming more evident. Every once in a while, I would log on to Facebook on Karen’s smart phone and see if I could learn anything. A few more names appeared. Kimber was in Nelson. I knew Alesha was with her, I could stop worrying about them. But so many other people I was worrying about. I thought of my flight the day before and of all the faces I’d scene on it. Where is everyone? What about the two flights that had come in the day before us? So many of us were in town. Who was still on the Ice? Who’s buried under rubble in Christchurch? Who already left Christchurch? I had hugged LaVonne goodbye earlier in the day, and known that her flight had left at 11:00 am – she should be long gone. She already had been in the big San Fransisco Earthquake, so she didn’t need another one. Ice people scatter when they hit New Zealand. It was impossible to know where anyone was at. I just kept watching the news and looking for faces I recognized as the cameras panned over crowds of refugees sprawled out across Christchurch, or as they pulled people out of the rubble. I learned on facebook that lots of people were gathering at the CDC, many of them walking there from downtown. Aftershocks continued to shake, even where I was at, 100 km away. I don’t even know how many have happened just since I sat down to write this. I can’t sleep. I haven’t eaten anything since breakfast before the quake. I’m not hungry, though. It’s the middle of the night. I decided to write about my experiences. 24 hours before the quake hit, I had been in Antarctica, watching penguins. As if culture shock to the real world isn’t enough, this is happening. So many changes happening in the last 24 hours. And now I sit here and wait… it will be a long waiting game to see who has survived and who hasn’t.

    I stopped writing, and tried to sleep. I couldn’t sleep. I just kept seeing the faces of everyone one my flight, and was comparing them against the lists of accounted for people. I imagined them at the bottom of the rubble – the pictures from the news. I grieved for the possible loss of friends. I got up early, and tried to get news off the smart phone. I had to hold it up high by the window to get service. I couldn’t log on to any of the lists that Ice people were creating, or even the group page on facebook. I was just looking at status updates… A few more names appeared. Steve Lee was OK. Bamma was OK, it was her birthday and this was different than the planned party. I could stop worrying about those friends. Other names were still missing. Later in the morning I finally got to a place where I could get on the internet and check out a more solid list that had been put together. So many people accounted for! So great to hear that so many friends are OK. There are still people not accounted for, like Pat. I saw her at breakfast, her hotel was ruined and she’d be the sort of person who would check in. Why aren’t we hearing from her? The list of missing people is getting smaller, but it still exists, and so we still worry. I love how everyone has come together to put the list together, organize a facebook page, get info from the official channels of the USAP and consolidate info. Ice people are resilient and amazing. I’m sure that those of us on the ground here in New Zealand, and our companions down on the Ice, have done more to find friends than has the Denver emergency command center that has been set up.

    You see these tragedies on the news, but they’re always so foreign. I imagined being back in Montana, watching the 6:00 world news. The two top stories would be the earthquake in Christchurch and the fighting in Libya. Neither would mean much to me. As it was, being here in New Zealand and dealing with my own situation, I didn’t care much about Libya. I live in a small town of 1000 people. We all leave there together and have a holiday in Christchurch every February. Half of our town was in Christchurch when the earthquake struck. My community of friends, lost to me, their fate a mystery. Watching the TV and looking for faces you recognize is so much different than looking at those same images from afar, when you know no one in the area.

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