Post-quake workers get recognition
As soon as the earthquake struck on February 22, 2011, Palmerston North man Frank Angelini knew he would be on his way to Christchurch.
A member of St John Ambulance, Mr Angelini is also part of the Urban Search and Rescue team, which was involved in the search and recovery efforts after the quake.
"I got the call at whatever time it started and went right to the fire station, got my equipment ready and started heading across.
"We hit the ferry at about 6pm and got to Christchurch at 3am."
Mr Angelini was one of 19 Manawatu-based St John staff and volunteers who were yesterday awarded the Canterbury Earthquake Citation for their work in Christchurch.
Heading into quake-hit Christchurch was nerve-racking, he said.
"We didn't know what to expect when driving in. All we knew is that people were still trapped and alive."
Mr Angelini was put to work on the five-storey Pyne Gould Corporation building, which collapsed in the quake, killing 18 people.
"We managed to get about three or four people out in the first hour.
"The first couple of days I was there all hours, doing 12-hour shifts."
His three weeks in the city largely involved going through buildings, checking if anyone was still inside.
He said he had the easy job, compared to what Christchurch emergency services staff went through.
"They got a lot of people out before we arrived, and they got the ones who were seriously injured.
"We did have some of those - and some other people as well - but not like they had."
St John's Naydene Barron's experience was slightly different.
She was sent down two weeks after the earthquake as an ambulance driver.
Ms Barron said her job was to help Christchurch-based St John staff sort out their own lives.
"They were obviously affected by the quake - they probably lost people - so we really were the extra resources on the road."
Being on the road in the city had its challenges, she said.
"We weren't familiar with the city, and the GPS would tell you to turn right and that road would be blocked.
"We helped our patients and they helped us; we helped each other get through what we had to do."
Both Mr Angelini and Ms Barron said the experience was positive, despite the destruction they faced.
"I was amazed as the resilience of the people," he said.
Ms Barron said the elderly people impressed her.
"They took it in their stride, as they sat in the rooms with cracks all over the walls and the ground still shaking.
"Most of the time all we got from them was thanks and praise.
"It was a really uplifting experience to know the community appreciates what we do as a service."