Lost in seconds

GONE: Liz and Peter Cammock in front of the house that has been in the Cammock family for 5 generations.
GONE: Liz and Peter Cammock in front of the house that has been in the Cammock family for 5 generations.

''It was all lost in seconds. When I came down in the CTV building it was 10 seconds. That is how fast my life changed. From there I went back to River Rd and realised we had lost our home and our community.''

Liz Cammock was in the Canterbury Television building on the day of the February 2011 earthquake. She was one of few people to survive the building's collapse.

Her husband, Peter Cammock, found her in Latimer Square and together they walked back to their Richmond home. She immediately realised her community had been destroyed.

''When we walked along River Rd it felt like something had died. This area had died. I felt huge relief to be home, but when I walked through the door it just felt dead. I can't explain it. It just felt dead and cold and empty,'' she said.

Their home, which has been in the family since the 1930s, was red-zoned in June last year, along with about 5000 houses along the Avon River.

''When I got out of the CTV building I thought all of Christchurch was flattened. I just thought there were going to be dead bodies everywhere. Is my husband alive? Is my daughter alive? It was really traumatic,'' she said.

''To lose the house on top of that. We have so many wonderful stories around that house; weddings and birthdays. There is a rich narrative around that house for us. It can't be replaced. You just have to let it go. There is a lot of grieving that goes into that.''

For Peter Cammock it was the end of the riverside neighbourhood where he grew up and a home that had been in his family for generations.

The home was bought by his great-uncle in the late 1930s and has provided a home for four generations of his family.

His great grandparents lived there, his grandmother lived there, him and his two siblings were raised there and his parents lived and died there.

He returned to the house in 2008 with Liz Cammock and two of his four children to refurbish the place and retire in his old neighbourhood.

''I felt very settled. There was an incredible sense of community. It was like coming home. It was a real sense of homecoming. We would have retired here,'' he said.

The quake ended those dreams. It was the end of a suburb full of his childhood memories.

He remembers how his father's Austin 7 car was small enough to drive across the Medway footbridge. He remembers the vegetable gardens, orchards and glasshouses that were slowly replaced by new homes.

He remembers his excitement as a child when cars would lose control and end up in the river. He remembers the family marriages in the back garden.

But soon the homes that line both sides of River Rd in Richmond will all be gone.

''I grew up here with my great-grandparents, my grandmother, my parents and us. All those generations have been taken away. The whole place will be gone. These were the places where we played. This is a whole community that has gone,'' he said.

''It feels like you have to reinvent your life.''

The Press