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Women's earthquake experiences to be launched on UC CEISMIC

Women's earthquake experiences to be launched on UC CEISMIC digital archive

December 2, 2012
Emotional accounts of women's experiences of the Canterbury earthquakes will tomorrow be released online through the University of Canterbury's CEISMIC digital archive.
Project co-ordinator University of Canterbury (UC) adjunct associate professor Rosemary Du Plessis said the collection promoted better understanding of the impacts of the earthquakes on women which has national significance.
``These are the stories that did not make the front page of newspapers or feature in TV news reports. Women talk about fears for their children, their partners and their elderly parents; sights in the inner city that still haunt them; practical support for neighbours and friends. Humorous stories about being trapped in the toilet are juxtaposed with accounts of delivering food to the eastern suburbs via helicopter.
``UC CEISMIC has made it possible for anyone to access their stories and for researchers to use them in future to analyse the impacts of the Canterbury quakes.''

She said women were cooking, baking, looking after children because schools were closed, driving children to schools across town when their schools were closed and caring for elderly people. Some women were working as dog handlers trying to find survivors in the CBD and also signing off on the demolition of heritage buildings and taking responsibility as the principals of damaged schools.
Women interviewed included sole parents, older women, teachers, social workers, counsellors, heritage consultants, museum directors, GPs, nurses, funeral directors, lawyers, volunteers, students, artists, business operators, new immigrants, retail workers, engineers, farmers, landscape designers, politicians and Civil Defence workers.
Here is a range of some of their accounts:
``.the chimney smashed outside. The rimu floor split apart. I wondered if it was real that the earth was undulating under us. It was like being in a large boat that was building up to a rough ride. We were tossed down the stairs and were standing at the front door, naked, and we went outside.
.I thought the whole house was going to break into pieces. There was a long thunderous noise, just like aeroplanes going over the house. I have never been so scared in my whole life. I will never forget the sound of it. The books fell, the mirror fell on my hand and I was cut. The house just screamed.
.I thought my house was falling down; absolute mayhem; liquefaction  coming up under the bath and shower; and everything falling around me. I felt an enormous jolt; violent shaking, rumbling and breaking glass; people falling over each other.
.My home, my lovely home just shattered. The liquefaction running through my home I couldn't stand, I couldn't move. I had to get to my girls. As soon as I got out the front door it was just a sea. You couldn't see the ground. It was like wading through a really thick muddy river.
.One or two of the beds were not only shaking, they were moving up the floor. All of us in this ward, we were all absolutely terrified, It was a real nightmare and we were all holding on to the sides of our beds. The nurses were wonderful. They actually worked two or three sessions. They didn't go home. They couldn't go home. They just stayed on duty and they would come in and talk to people and calm them down.
.When I stand up and look back from the window, the CBD is covered in dust my image of Christchurch just turned grey. We started walking and I saw windows that had fallen off and were broken; noises, screaming, someone lying down in the street bleeding and the person from the cafe trapped. Someone was screaming. Someone was still there. They needed help.
I would come out of the red zone at night. I felt as if I walked out of the dark into the light, it was silent in there. That's something that will stay with me forever - the silence. It was a city I worked in every day and it was silent; absolutely silent because there was no machinery in there in those first few weeks. No birds, nothing. And it felt cold and dark. And you would walk over the Gloucester Street Bridge and the sun would shine.
.Before this we were a self-centered, narcissistic society. Now we talk to others, to people in the streets, to strangers.
.The central city will look very different. I think it will be a lot smaller and I think it would be really nice if there were more people living in the central city.
.I would like to see.clusters of little, one-only shops, allowing people to develop their own goods and retail and put some flavour back into the city. I don't want it to become a glass palace."
.We can start again with a different aesthetic awareness. I would like to see our river really, really cleaned up and take the opportunity to make it a precious ribbon of life that goes through the city.''
President of the Christchurch branch of the National Council of Women Judith Sutherland said she wanted to make sure women's quake stories, their responses to family and community needs and their aspirations for the city were recorded.


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