No More Music — Remembering February 22, 2011

Recently, I sent out a request for others to share their memories of the Christchurch earthquakes that occurred five years ago. To my pleasant surprise, some have come forward with stories so moving that I felt it was important to share them with the world. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will be sharing some of the stories sent to me about that day as well as sharing a few of my own. The February 2011 quake changed our lives forever, but has made the city of Christchurch a stronger community.

J. L. O'Rourke was working in the office of the Christchurch School of Music in the Music Centre building on February 22. The Music Centre was housed in a former convent beside the Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. Both buildings were red-stickered after the quake and the Music Centre was subsequently demolished.

The Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament after the quake on Feb 22, 2011. (Photo: The Press)

The Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament after the quake on Feb 22, 2011. (Photo: The Press)

No More Music
J.L. O’Rourke

Nobody really did
the drop, cover, hold.

Back in September,
in the middle of the night,
we were all in bed,
so we froze,
hugging the blankets
as the walls moved around us,
calling out to each other when it stopped,
crawling out of bed, meeting in the hall
terrified, confused,
not understanding but knowing
it was big!

By February it was old-hat,
just another one.
The cracks in the convent walls
went all the way through the thick stone,
But not structural.
So they said.
The lintel in the stairwell
separated a bit more with each shock.
But not structural.
So they said.

Nobody did the drop, cover, hold.
Not at first.
We sat, gripping our desks,
expecting the end.
Outside, though the ancient window,
stone was falling.
Then we dropped.
Inside, between us and the door,
the wall opened.
The boss yelled “run!”

Past the exploding wall,
rubble now ankle-deep
as we race for the doors.
Past the stairwell
which fell as I ran
out the back door.
Turn to latch it open for others
No latch – no stone left to latch it to.

Must get to the front,
to the others,
a pile of rubble blocks the way.
Metal and stone.
I clamber,
look up,
recognise
the metal and stone.
Yesterday it was a bell tower
on the Catholic Cathedral.

I reach the others.
We hold each other as the ground shakes
again and again.
I try to text
But my shaking hands drop the phone.
Behind us people pour onto safe ground.
A hotel leans.
My car is trapped,
beside one broken,
crushed by the stones that fell
outside the window.
I want to go home
where it feels safe.
There will be no more music
from those walls.

About J. L. O'Rourke:

J. L. O’Rourke is the pen-name of Jenner Lichtwark. Jenner writes contemporary murder mysteries, urban fantasy, stories for children and rambling freeform poems. The Christchurch earthquakes have left a legacy of anxiety and panic attacks which saw her quit her regular job in 2012 to establish Millwheel Press Ltd, publishing her own works and offering editing advice and assistance to other writers. When not writing, Jenner enjoys being in a theatre, either onstage as a singer or backstage where she has been everything from floor crew to stage-manager. She lives in Christchurch with an assortment of hairless dogs, fluffy cats and grumpy guinea pigs.


If you have a story that you would like to share, I want to hear it. Visit here for more information on Project Share Your Stories.


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© Copyright, J. L. O'Rourke 2016

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