Vicki Anderson Blog | Sept 4 anniversary

00:18, Sep 04 2012

Only one picture frame remained on the wall at the Greendale home of Sydney and Trish Worsfold on September 4, 2010 after the 7.1 magnitude quake hit at 4.35am.

Bookshelves spewed their contents, glass shattered and everything on the walls fell down, except a framed certificate proudly proclaiming the achievements of one of the farming couple's children.

This is somewhat remarkable as the epicentre of the Greendale fault that caused the quake is on their property.

''The picture scratched the paint on the wall in a full half circle but it stayed up there. You wouldn't believe it,'' Sydney said.

The pair, who run a 350 hectare cropping farm, didn't know that when the quake hit, they were practically sitting right on top of the epicentre.

The Worsfolds had never been interviewed until I talked to them last year, ahead of the first anniversary of the quake, but have recorded an oral account of their story for the National Archive.


This story wasn't published last year as there wasn't enough space in the paper.

Today I am remembering the shock of that morning and it seems fitting to tell their story now.

At the time, although a year had passed, Trish said she still felt ''quite emotional''.

''It's a day I will never forget. To describe the sound, it was horrendous. I've never heard anything like it and I never want to hear anything like it ever again. It was awfully, awfully, frightening,'' Trish said.

''Being in the dark didn't help. We both had to hold onto our beds, we couldn't get out of our beds, we couldn't move, it was just gravity I suppose.

''I thought it was the end of the world.''

She remembers walking around in the dark in a daze, with ''one shoe on and one off'' with aftershocks rolling in continuously.

''We didn't know it was on our property, we had no idea. My sister in London text us. That was how we found out it was near us, from a cellphone message from London,'' Trish said.

It had been a hard frost and she says they decided to hop into bed and stay there until dawn.

''The house had shaken so much, we thought we'd be missing a wall somewhere but we couldn't tell in the dark. It was a very long morning. It was so nice to finally hear from family, that was my worst fear - 'is everybody all right?'''

When daylight did come, they checked on their animals. Although inside their home was in disarray, their fear that they would be missing walls proved false.

While out checking on neighbours, Sydney noticed that their previously straight road had developed a kink.

''It used to go in a straight line, now it's got a three metre wide bend in it. I'd never seen anything like it. We had silos down and our neighbours, John and Alison Gray, the faultline had gone under their milking shed and into our paddocks as well. Where the epicentre is on our property, the paddock had just been drilled,'' Sydney said.

''You just can't imagine what a three metre sideways shift of the soil looks like until you see it for yourself.''

Trish listened to news of the quake on the radio that morning but after that couldn't bring herself to hear any more.

''Usually I wouldn't talk about it like this,'' she said.

''I didn't want to see any footage or listen to the radio. It took me about a week to look at the news about it. I still think about it, even after a year. It doesn't seem like almost a year has passed at all.''

With little prompting, Sydney rattles off the earthquake sequence on September 4 which changed us all forever.

''The Charing Cross fault is where the first one was, that triggered the second one near us and that triggered the Hororata one, so the experts tell us, three of them all in a row. When we were woken by it, we thought it was hundreds of miles away, not on top of us. We never expected it to be so close.''

Sydney doesn't ''come to town'' very often but he was having a business lunch in Christchurch's CBD on February 22 when the devastating 6.3 quake struck.

''I heard it coming and immediately I knew what it was. I was the first one under the table. It didn't feel as big as our one, but it was bigger in every other sense. Both of them are unforgettable.''

As for that picture frame which, despite all odds, stayed on the wall, Sydney said it will always have pride of place in their home in some form.

This morning I was thinking about Trish and Sydney and how they were feeling today, the second anniversary of the 7.1.

I rang Trish and she said that her London-based sister had text her this morning to say she was thinking of her and Trish shed a few tears. Not sad tears, just emotional tears.

Their house repairs were completed in May and ''time moves on''.

But today she says it all has come back to occupy her mind.

''It's a huge memory, I don't think it's ever going to be wiped.

''For me it wasn't the rocking and shaking... it was the sound of the quake.

''It was a life-changing experience.''

The Press