Life af­ter the quake

South Waikato News - - NEWS - By FLORENCE KERR

Fe­bru­ary 22, 2011, 12.51pm changed the lives of Peter Hughes and his part­ner Char­lotte Foote for­ever.

The cou­ple, who now live in Pu­taruru, lived in Christchurch when the quake struck. For­tu­nately, Peter was in West­port for work at the time, and Char­lotte es­caped un­scathed phys­i­cally.

How­ever, the emo­tional im­pact has been sig­nif­i­cant. Their close friend lost her five­month-old son that day, and the trauma of his death has emo­tion­ally scarred the cou­ple.

Char­lotte, sup­ported by her part­ner Peter, re­lives the day that changed Christchurch for­ever.

‘‘When the quake hit I was at lunch with my col­leagues in our staffroom. We knew it was a big one, but we didn’t re­alise just how big and dev­as­tat­ing it was un­til a lot later in the af­ter­noon.’’ Char­lotte said.

Head­ing home, she was not sure how wide­spread the dev­as­ta­tion was.

‘‘ We could see what we thought was smoke ris­ing from the city only a few kilo­me­tres away. That was when we all de­cided home was the best place to get to, and quickly. We had lost cell­phone re­cep­tion so no one could get hold of me. When I got home I rang my par­ents [on a lan­d­line phone] back in Whakatane to let them know I was fine and my Mum told me Pete was try­ing to find me.’’

Char­lotte and Pete only re­alised the full grav­ity of the sit­u­a­tion when watch­ing the news cov­er­age on TV.

‘‘ That’s when I saw our beau­ti­ful city re­duced to ru­ins, peo­ple in the streets bleed­ing, scream­ing and cry­ing out, build­ings col­lapsed. It was sur­real, like watch­ing the news and see­ing bomb­ings in mid­dle east­ern coun­tries. This was hap­pen­ing in my coun­try, in the city I love, the city I called home.’’

The next day, the cou­ple were told their friend’s five-month-old son, Bax, had died in the quake.

‘‘We were ab­so­lutely dev­as­tated. It was be­yond be­lief that this gor­geous lit­tle crea­ture could be ripped from us. The day we said good­bye to Bax was a typ­i­cal Can­ter­bury sum­mer day. His ser­vice was amaz­ing, he was amaz­ing. So tiny, so full of life, such a laid back, happy wee man. I can re­mem­ber it all so clearly even af­ter two years.’’

In April 2011, the cou­ple left Christchurch and made the move north to Pu­taruru. They have fallen in love with their new home.

‘‘We moved in to our house in Pu­taruru; into our new life, our new be­gin­ning. We didn’t know any­one here, and it was a long time be­fore we be­came lo­cals. I think it was ac­tu­ally a long time un­til we ac­cepted that we weren’t go­ing back to Christchurch.

‘‘We ab­so­lutely love our lit­tle town, even though no one in the South Is­land knows where it is. The best thing that has come from our re­lo­ca­tion is we are now the proud own­ers of Pu­taruru’s new­est work­shop, Pu­taruru Diesel Ser­vices. We visit Christchurch oc­ca­sion­ally, but it doesn’t look like the place we once loved so much. We still love Christchurch, but South Waikato is where our hearts are now and that’s where [we] will stay for a long time to come.’’

NEW BE­GIN­NINGS: Former Christchurch res­i­dents now re­sid­ing in Pu­taruru, Char­lotte Foote and Peter Hughes re­veal their jour­ney since the Christchurch quake.

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