Quake rubble-born romance sealed

ASHLEIGH STEWART AND FRANCESCA LEE
Last updated 13:01 02/12/2012
Wedding
Peter Prue

LOVING EMBRACE: The couple hug after the dramatic rescue on September 4, 2010.

Wedding
DEAN KOZANIC/Fairfax NZ
PERFECT ENDING: Jacque Palmer and Jonathan Mackie after their wedding ceremony.

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A storybook romance born out of the rubble of the Christchurch earthquakes was yesterday sealed with an "I do".

Jonathan Mackie and Jacque Palmer were married in St Michael's Church, two years after footage of Jacque's daring highrise rescue became a haunting image of Christchurch's first major earthquake.

The budding couple had been on only three dates before the quake struck on September 4, 2010, throwing their relationship into overdrive.

They had been planning their first trip together, for which Jacque was preparing on the night of September 3 while house-sitting for her parents in the city centre.

"We were planning to go to Hanmer the next day, and so I was organising myself, getting all ready to go and making sandwiches and things."

But ideas of a romantic getaway were lost when Christchurch was shaken violently awake in the early hours of the morning.

Jonathan's first instinct was to check on Jacque, knowing she was alone in a 7th-floor penthouse.

"The earthquake hit and I rang Jacque to see if she was OK. I drove into the city straight afterwards to her building and yelled out to her," Jonathan said.

What followed was a dramatic rescue operation that ended in Jacque being plucked from her balcony in a fairytale-style operation.

After waiting, petrified, in the dark, Jacque had started to go down the building's staircase until discovering there was no way out.

"I felt in front of me and that's when I knew the stairs were broken, there was nothing left.

"Then I just thought 'OK I'm trapped', because the house was locked and I couldn't get back in. I thought 'maybe I'm going to die'. I remember saying, 'Is this it?' "

But a persistent Jonathan had been hard at work on the ground, organising a fire truck to retrieve her from the building's balcony.

Jonathan then took Jacque in, providing a home, food and even clothes, as she was left without anywhere to stay.

"On the fourth date we were buying underwear. And that day I'd plonked her at the office and she met my mum - in that time we got really close," Jonathan said.

But the biggest surprise was yet to come. In January this year Jonathan and Jacque welcomed a baby boy, a scenario the couple had come to accept as an impossibility.

"I'd been told I was infertile so it was a blessing in disguise. I'd always wanted kids," Jonathan said.

Now 10 months old, their son Sebastien sat with his aunts in the congregation as his parents said "I do" to one another.

Jacque wore a strapless beaded blush-coloured gown with a mermaid skirt. Her mother came from Australia and will look after Sebastien while the couple honeymoon on the West Coast.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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