Life after the quake
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.