Rise up Christchurch

It’s hard to know what to say about the last two weeks here in Christchurch. It has been a distressing and surreal time and will continue to be for some time yet. I know that many New Zealanders are trying to understand what people in Christchurch are going through, and for that reason, I’d like to share my experience with you.

The earthquake hit as I was preparing to meet with Rose and Marcel in our central city studio for a Felt planning session. I was armed with many coloured Post-its and Mel (of Black Swan Designs, and also my business partner at Board of Design) had helped me set up our whiteboard before heading home for the afternoon. Rose and Marcel were due to arrive at 1pm.

Mel had only just left and I was finishing my lunch when the first jolt happened. In that first instant, I knew it was going to be bad. Our building, though old, has a solid floor and we had been surprised at how little we felt many of the aftershocks from September. This time though, it was sudden and terrifyingly violent. The computers all turned off in front of me as the power went out. I was standing between my desk and the table in the centre of the room, and I didn’t know which way to go. The nice solid desk was against the brick wall and the bricks were starting to fall in on it. The table suddenly seemed completely unsubstantial. Neither felt like a good option. Thick dust came rushing in the door from the stairs as the (thankfully empty) building next door collapsed in on itself, and mortar dust flew out of the brick wall, making it hard to breathe or see. I still don’t know how, but somehow I made my way across the room to the door, where I held the door open, hoping its glass wouldn’t shatter and trying desperately to remember whether I’d heard Mel close the door as she left downstairs. I didn’t know if she was still in the building and I wanted to yell out to her but the noise was unbelievable. I saw daylight appear to either side of me as the walls fell.

When the shaking finally stopped I crept into the hall to the stairs, which were thankfully intact. And to my great relief, the door at the bottom was wide open to the street. As I reached the bottom of the stairs I saw Mel and Rose, standing together in the middle of the road. The masonry above the door had slumped and some had fallen – if the door had been shut, it would have stuck and opening it would have brought more bricks down. As it was, an aftershock a few minutes later had bricks tumbling down over the doorway I had just run from.

Unbeknownst to me, Rose had arrived early for our meeting and had met Mel as she was leaving. As Mel turned back to unlock the door and let Rose in, the shaking started and they both ran out into the street, clear of the brick facade and leaving the door wide open. Every day since then I’ve thought to myself how lucky we were. How lucky Rose was early, how lucky Marcel hadn’t left home yet, how lucky they weren’t in the building or hit by debris, how lucky Mel opened the door.

And every day since then, along with the rest of New Zealand, my heart has just about broken for the families and friends of those who weren’t so lucky.

Board of Design and Felt HQ on Bedford Row

We walked away from our beautiful office in Bedford Row, knowing it was broken beyond repair. As we reached Madras Street, we glimpsed the ruins of the CTV building, so completely unrecognisable as a building that I couldn’t work out what was supposed to be there. We could smell gas. Water and silt gushed up through cracks between the road and pavement. The mud kept sucking my shoes off. We walked in the middle of the road, dodging cars and massive puddles and staying as far from buildings as we could. And eventually, we got home.

Christchurch will recover from this. We will never be the same, but we owe it to those who lost their lives and to those who are left behind to rebuild our city and live our lives well, knowing how precious they are. My vision for Felt and Board of Design has taken on new meaning to me post-quake. No longer just personal endeavours, the success of my businesses now feels to me like my role in the rise of Christchurch.

It has taken me two weeks to write this, and last night I cried for the first time since that Tuesday. I hope that sharing my story maybe gives some insight to those outside our shaky city who I know are trying to understand what we are going through. Your support and empathy means more than you can know.

34 thoughts on “Rise up Christchurch

  1. Lucy! I am so glad you guys got out, incredibly scary. I have had at least two huge crys and many small ones. Not sure how you held on to it so long. Take care, will hopefully see you around soon.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. How horribly traumatic and terrifying it must have been (and probably still is?) and how wonderfully lucky you are to have escaped so unscathed! Sending you love to get through…Kia Kaha!

  3. Thank you for the courage to share your feelings, no one can comprehend what you have endured, the trauma you have felt unless experienced it for themselves. I think along with building a new Christchurch one has to also remember that post traumatic stress is very real and Lucy you need to take care of that side, and look after yourself, crying is good, it is releasing those pent up emotions that you have kept bottled in as way of safety and hyper-vigilance, ( I sound like a therapist! ) but I know first hand the effects of PTSD so take my sweet and remember to nurture yourself and be gentle with yourself first! You are precious to us xx

  4. Hey. Thanks so very much for your story. You are so right, those of us indirectly involved are trying to comprehend what you have all been through, and continue to go through. Your stories are important, and need to be told. We want to hear them. We do have your back, and you are in our hearts and heads.

  5. Kia kaha! What an ordeal. Those of us outside of Christchurch cannot even begin to fathom what you have endured. Thank you for sharing your experience. Take care.

  6. Thank you for finding the words to help us understand. Outside of Christchurch we have largely only seen media reports which don’t convey the feeling and experiences of the real people we know and care about. I don’t doubt Christchurch will rise again – and we will help x

  7. Kia kaha Lucy, what beautiful, heartfelt words. My heart has been breaking too 4 those who r lost and 4 our beautiful city. I was home last week and was heartened by the amazing strenght, humour and sense of community my friends, family and total strangers in chch shared. Kia kaha, kia toa, kia manawanui. Arohanui ki a koe e hoa, Lucy

  8. Oh Lucy, how awful to read that the Headquarters are so damaged, but I’m so glad that the whole team are safe. It’s ok to cry if you need – I certainly have, and I’m not even down there.
    You are strong, and you are right, making sure local businesses keep going is essential to helping rebuild the community. And your business helps so many others to have businesses as well.

  9. Thanks for telling your story. I hope that is the last of the big shakes so we can get back to normal life. It’s going to be one hell of a long journey to get the city back on track but Kiwis are made of tough stuff and they’ll turn it back into the awesome city it was before, I just know it!

  10. Dear Lucy
    I’ve felt like a cyber-stalker for the past couple of weeks checking that all the people I care so much about in Christchurch were “physically unharmed” (to steal a phrase from a friend who refuses to say she is “OK”). So so pleased that you, Mel, Rose and Marcel had such an incredibly lucky escape.
    Your comments about your business and its role in rebuilding Christchurch are inspirational and I have no doubts you’ll do it and plenty more amazing things. Just take care of yourself and don’t be a hero lady.

  11. This chilled my blood more than anything in the newspapers. Like many here I was ticking Christchurch people off my mental ‘OK List’ on Felt, on Twitter (thank goodness for Twitter or I would still be worrying about three pals) and throgh emails and such like.

    Felt, and Christchurch and its people will fight back, I know it.

    The amount of love coming at you from all over New Zealand alone must be amazing. People are “sausage sizzling” for the Sallies, Donating to SPCA Canterbury, the Red Cross, and heaven knows how many other people who are doing wonderful work at the sharp end. I hope it reaches everyone. Each person great and small is loved by their fellow Kiwis and those of us who moved here and love new Zealand.

  12. Oh Lucy, reading this has brought tears to my eyes. I am so incredibly glad you managed to escape that mess and all of you there are all safe and well. It has been such a terrible time and my heart really does go out to those that weren’t so lucky. If anything it has been a huger reminder that life is ever so precious and to make the most of each and every day. Your courage and determination are truely an inspiration.
    Take Care xo

  13. Hi Lucy, good on you for sharing… and for crying. I was speaking with a fellow mum of two preschoolers who has escaped Christchurch for a couple of weeks to avoid the shakes and keep herself and her children safe (plus be in a home with power & water). She told me her story – where she was during the quake, what happened, how it felt, how she will never forget the screaming… tears welled up in my eyes and I was trying desperately to just listen to her and be strong (like she was) but found it incredibly difficult. I can only imagine how terrifying the event was and how very very difficult it is to keep on keeping on. I think you are all amazing. Felt is a wonderful thing that you must be so proud of. It really helps so many people. Take care of you.

  14. My story is so similar to yours, me too I was going to have a meeting at 1 pm, I was in Hereford Street between Colombo and Manchester, I don’t know how long it took me to walk home to Sumner, never looked on my watch, but got there before dark anyway. Car is still in Cashel St. car park (next to Grand Chancellor hotel..) I have not cried yet, thanks for sharing ♥

  15. Kia Kaha Lucy and all at Felt, so pleased you are all ok, thanks for sharing your story my hearts go out to you and all affected by this terrible event, stay safe XX Sally

  16. Blessings. Your story has touched me as do the pictures we see on the television of your city. A girlfriend of mine had just left Christchurch the day before but had purchased from your shop a small hand felted pouch. It was a gift to me and I am absolutely and totally in love with it. I will visit your blog often and your shop. Thank you for such a beautiful piece. I will treasure it.

  17. Lucy – goosebumps doesn’t even cover it… You know I’ve been trying to move to Christchurch for four years now. I can’t pretend I’m sorry I wasn’t there for the quake, but sometimes I feel slightly guilty, because I really “should” have been there. Like so many others I’ve had the luxury of being able to sit in front of the telly and cry my heart out. I didn’t have to hold it together like the people of Chch. It will take a long time to rebuild the city. Let alone heal the wounds and feel safe again. Despite all this – I’m still determined to move. I just love Canterbury too much to abandon my plans. Thanks so much for sharing your vision! I took heart when you said that your task seems to be to make Felt a success for the team, for yourself, and for Christchurch. I couldn’t agree more and hope to be part of that task as soon as possible. Take care.

  18. Hi Lucy
    Wow what a story! It is amazing that you survived and thank you for sharing it. I do think it is a great process of grief writing out your story, just getting it down and sharing it seems to rid some of the emotion, I know it did for me.

    Glad you guys are all safe.


  19. Hi Lucy! So pleased to hear that you guys are okay. Sending lots and lots of love to you and the team, thinking of you. Thanks for sharing your story. With love Kitty x

  20. It helps to hear your courage and vision for the future, and in my best moments I see myself doing that too. I know how hard it is to cry (who stole my tears eh?). I was trapped in the shop (the shelves fell over the door and it took a couple of shaky attempts to clamber over them), but if that quake had been a little later that day I would have been next door – I had a pile of pants that needed hemming, which I suspect are under a great big pile of dust now. Funny how I just remember rushing and planning and making lists in my head all morning – seems silly now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *