23 February 2011

The Text Message


February 22 2011
12:18 AM
I want to come home. 
Massive earthquake, 
scariest moment of my life, 
but I am fine.

I received this text message at 12:18AM last night. I was just about to turn off my iphone after reading the news and call it a night. Something made me hang on and I am so glad that I did. The text message was from my daughter and she had just experienced the earthquake that struck in Christchurch, New Zealand. I tried to call from every phone in the house and could not get thru to her.

I went online to find out what was going on. It was true, a massive earthquake of 6.3 magnitude had struck with devastating results. You can imagine, a mother (me) sitting in a dark house, 11,750 miles (18,900km) from her daughter who is shaken to the bone. The frustration of not being able to reach her after the first message was beyond belief. My only consolation is that she said those last four words to me..."but I am fine". I had that much and she knew it would make all the difference to me. 

With that, I woke her father and we began mapping out a plan for her. We are fortunate to have dear friends in New Zealand who I knew would be there for her. It gives me great comfort to think of them. This is the most difficult part of being an expat. Different countries, different homes, friends and family spread out across continents. It is like orchestrating a large chess board. A strategy goes in to place but in the end we have to have faith that whatever the move, it is the right one. We started making phone calls and within a short time she had a place to stay if and when she could get to Auckland. 

For those of you not familiar with New Zealand, Christchurch is located on the South Island and Auckland is on the North Island.  We received word that the airport had been closed until further notice and we still had not heard from her since the first text message. Getting her to Auckland was now out of the question.

Then, the next message came thru....

 I am alive but you may want to call to double check.

That was her signal to us...she was coping. 

She asked us what was going on as they had little communication.  

Rumors of fatalities and we have no idea 
what going on... no power or anything!
Just in the process of making sure everyone is okay...
Don't need to evacuate, will keep you posted..

At that moment this distraught mother went into overdrive. I don't think I have ever texted so many complete sentence as quickly as that in my life. I was a woman possessed. The reception was poor and the land lines were not open. We had to rely on what little text messages we could get thru. 

It was then left to me to update her on what was happening around Christchurch. I had seen the video footage taken by residents and I had heard the cries and fear in their voices. I knew that buildings had collapsed onto two buses. It was lunch hour in a busy city. Everyone was out...parents, children, students. It is a young city...a beautiful city. The possibility of fatalities was heart breaking. I had to choose my words carefully.

What do you say when you know that many are stranded in the rubble of buildings just a few blocks away? What do you say when airports are closed, power is down, water is compromised and people are in panic trying to get away to their loved ones? What do you say when you can not be their to offer a solution out and know that she will have to rely on herself and others to make the next move? How do you say it in a text message?

I looked at dozens of services for information and found the most up to date was Twitter. I locked onto the New Zealand Herald and other local news services and stayed with them thru the night. I was not the only one, everyone wrote in to ask for help. A missing brother, an ailing grandmother...the list went on. People were asking each other for help and they were getting responses. I was not surprised...it is one of the most endearing qualities of New Zealand.  Small islands...big heart.

My daughter and I last spoke this morning, 14 hours ago, via Skype. It was wonderful to hear her voice. She was safe, she was sound and she was planning to leave for stable ground outside the city at least for a few days. At that point, her day was over and mine had just begun. 

It has been 14 hours since we last spoke. Our sun has set and hers is just rising and I sit in wait to hear from her. My thoughts and prayers are with them all. This is the second earthquake in Christchurch in six months. The people of Christchurch have suffered enough. My daughter has experienced something that I can not even begin to imagine. My one conciliation is that in the face of this she is finding strength. I am thankful for that and pray that she carries it with her thru the upcoming weeks.

If you have made it to the end of this letter...a special thanks to you for reading. Mother or father, sister or brother...you may have experienced something like this yourself. You will know that sometimes it is best to talk about it or in my case, write about it. I have faith.


I took this photo last year when visiting my daughter
in her University room. The photo of her and her brother was taken by me
many years ago. I love that she has kept it as a reminder of our times together.


top image source unknown

61 comments:

  1. Thinking of you dear... prayers... prayers are good...
    Valarie

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  2. As a mother of a daughter, I can only imagine the desperation you must have felt. I am thinking of you, your family and the people of Christchurch. Please keep us posted. Hugs. Bonnie

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  3. I thought of you instantly Jeanne when I heard about Christchurch as I remember you posting something about your daughter there before. I am so thankful, truly truly thankful, she is okay, or as okay as she can be during these circumstances. I am thinking of you and your family, and all of those who are caught up in this horror.

    Tracy
    xxoo

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  4. My thoughts are with you and your family. These are the times when being an expat is the worst thing in the world. I hope you daughter and all her loved ones are safe. Lx

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  5. Jeanne, we have just been watching the news about the earthquake. Just shock and disbelief. Thank God your daughter is safe and was able to text you. She (and you as well) are very much in my prayers and thoughts. As are all the people in Christchurch at this terrible time for them.

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  6. Oh gosh Jeanne, I have a knot in my stomach thinking of the last 24 hrs and what they must have been like for you.

    Glad that you have had a couple of messages and access to some information.

    I have texted today with 3 good friends from my school, all New Zealanders - one of the Dads is from Christchurch, thankfully all his family are safe but he is devastated by the images on TV....it's just horrifying.

    Thinking of you and your precious daughter, love to you xxxx

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  7. Jeanne,
    I've not experienced anything like this so cannot quite imagine the fear and anxiety of this situation with your daughter.

    My prayers go out for you and yours and trust that all will turn out well enough. So much tragedy with earthquakes such as this...it does seem as if the whole world is in UPSET mode!

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  8. Oh Jeanne what a harrowing 24 hrs. for you all. I'm so glad to hear your GG is OK. Apparently the Christchurch Airport has just reopened for domestic flights only, so I hope GG can get out to the safety of Auckland very soon. Good old Air New Zealand are only charging NZD50 for all internal flights to anyone who wants to leave. Have also just seen on telly that rescuers have found a group of folk alive in a small air pocket in the CTV building, so in the midst of so much tragedy there is hope. I love Christchurch too, having visited there many times over the years. Let me know if I can help her in any, any way.
    Millie x

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  9. Hanging on to every word Jeanne. Finally shed a tear or two myself this evening. SOOOO Pleased you girl is ok. Eases the knots in the stomach.
    xxx

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  10. Hi all...thanks so much for your comments..I really and truly appreciate them, always :)

    Millie...special thanks, I have sent your note onto Christine to look into. If she can get wait listed, it's a start :)

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  11. So many prayers and good wishes for your dear, sweet daughter. Love to you my friend. xox

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  12. Okay first...thank God she is safe!
    I'm sitting here with tears running down my face...I do know what you are going through. It wasn't NZ it was London, it wasn't an earthquake it was a subway bombing. Those hours without knowing were the worst hours of my life...and the relief when she finally made contact was the best relief in my life.
    Keeping all of you in my heart Jeanne

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  13. Heart skipped a beat when I started reading this, but so glad for you and your family that she is safe. How utterly worrying and frustrating for you, for it is indeed an awful situation. How lucky you have friends who can shelter her and make her safe, hopefully she should be able to travel out today. Hopefully you can sleep a bit now too yourself.
    Carmel

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  14. Lifting up prayers for everyone. What a smart thoughtful daughter to let you know that "I am fine." Treasured, cherished words they must have been. You all will be in my thoughts and prayers in the coming weeks as everything settles out. ~Blessings, Janet

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  15. I am thinking of you and your daughter and family...my heart goes out to you with many prayers as well. Hang in there.

    XO,
    Jane

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  16. Oh, Jeanne. It's all too much to comprehend. As if those poor people haven't suffered enough lately. It's time for Mother Nature to take a Bex and have a good lie down. I am so relieved your gorgeous daughter is safe. Sending you a Hobart ♥ J x

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  17. Oh dear...I hope she will not be too traumatized.
    It's great that you have been able to talk and text...the not knowing would be far worse.
    Take care...and keep us posted.

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  18. This is a tough one! What a terrible thing for Miss Tine to go through. My heart is with you and your family and I know that once she is reunited with you, she will find the support she needs! xoxo

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  19. Glad she is okay. Thank heavens for texting and Skype. I can't imagine going through something like that.
    Hugs and prayers for you, your daughter, and the people of Christchurch.

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  20. Jeanne.....I am so glad that your daughter is safe. There is no worse feeling for a mother than to be far removed during a crisis. Thak goodness for texting and skype!
    Sending healing thoughts to all....
    Michelle

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  21. First, keep writing. Keep all of your text messages. I went through a similar experience several years ago when my husband, son and his wife were in a 7.8 earthquake in Mexico, the state of Colima to be exact. The phones still worked within the first 10 minutes after this horrendous shake, so my husband called me immediately. Some damage. They were thrown to the ground. Daughter-in-law traumazed. Then, no phones. I was desperately trying to figure out how to get down there. It would be a 17 hour drive across some dangerous roads. Airports were closed. The car registration was not in my name so I could not even cross the vehicle. It was all frightening. A friend talked to me by cell phone until she reached my back door. And when I answered the door, there she stood with a pillow and blanket, prepared to stay the night. You will never forget what you are going through. Surely your daughter will not either. When she returns home she may shiver at the sight of a crumbled fence, as my husband did. She may feel imaginery ground tremors. Everyone reacts differently. Thank God your daughter is safe. We have friends who were vacationing there just a few days ago. So very glad you posted about this. Keep us updated if you can. I'll be checking back.
    Karen
    Ladybug Creek

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  22. Jeanne, I will add your family to my prayers for those in NZ. My daughter and her husband are there right now for 3 weeks. They were still in Auckland when it happened.

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  23. Wow, brought a tear to my eye. Such a hard thing to have to watch your child go through from a distance.

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  24. I am so glad to hear that your daughter is OK. I am still in shock about this and have been thinking of you all. I know I am in another country but please let me know if there is anything that I can do. Take care Jeanne.

    Blessings,
    Natasha.
    xo

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  25. Ah Jeanne, as the mother of a precious daughter I empathise completely. I think you have handled it much better than I would have. Not a glimpse of headless chook behaviour at all! And your girl sounds like she is handling it with aplomb as well. I hope that things settle down for you both as soon as possible. It's awful watching it all unfold isn't it? Hearts in throats everywhere. Big hugs x

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  26. Ooh, so scary and a mother's nightmare. I will keep her in my thoughts and prayers

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  27. So glad you have had those messages. A life line in such a desperate situation.

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  28. Dear Jeanne how awful this is for you and your family but thank god for modern technology! I know that you must be frantic with worry and you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers - I know there will be no peace until you hold her in your arms again.xxx

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  29. Dear, Dear Jeanne - my heart was in my mouth as I read you post. I wish there was something I could as she is just across the ditch - so much closer to me than you. The consular number, if she is an Aussie and you lose contact, is +61 2 6261 3305. The travel advisories are at http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/zw-cgi/view/Advice/New_Zealand

    Huggggss

    Deb xx

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  30. Dear Deb..

    Thanks so much for this information! I was just trying to find it online. She is an Australian citizen as well as American but is living in NZ on her Australian passport. I am trying to second guess all the things she would need to know. She is determined to stick it out and offer help where she can. Eighty percent of the city is without water and she does not live that far from it all. It is making me very nervous...this information is so very much appreciated!!

    Thank you!!

    Jeanne xxx

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  31. You guys are all so wonderful xxxx

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  32. Jeanne - I am here in Christchurch. If your daughter needs anything, we are here for her (you). We don't have water/sewerage, but we do have power and a safe house.

    If she needs transport, we might be able to help with that too (to get out to supermarkets etc).

    Please don't hesitate. We are in Beckenham/Somerfield.

    It is scary, the aftershocks are ugly, but if you're not in the CBD or out at Sumner or Lyttleton, there's no imminent danger per se. (Just a huge mess.) xx

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  33. Michelle!! I am so sorry that I did not connect that you are in Christchurch as well. I was just looking on google maps to see the streets as I remember most of them having been for a visit last year. My daughter is in Riccarton..close to campus. Just so so sad for you all. Thank you so much for your offer...I will let my daughter know. You are so kind!!
    Jeanne xxx

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  34. Jacqueline!! My heart skipped a beat when you mentioned that the bombing. How awful for you!
    I am lucky Christine was able to contact us quickly. I can not imagine having to wait all those hours.
    Ah...the things we go thru in the name of love :)
    Thanks for your comment....I really appreciate it!

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  35. Jacqueline!! My heart skipped a beat when you mentioned that the bombing. How awful for you!
    I am lucky Christine was able to contact us quickly. I can not imagine having to wait all those hours.
    Ah...the things we go thru in the name of love :)
    Thanks for your comment....I really appreciate it!

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  36. Jeanne - thank you. It would be a pleasure if there is anything we can do.

    I went to UC and know the campus/Riccarton well.

    We managed to fill the tanks in both cars today.

    We have been advised water and waste systems will not be up and running any time soon. So it will feel like a long haul.

    My email is: michelle.trusttum@paradise.net.nz

    Big hugs to you - I know I would want to whisk my child away immediately if I was in your shoes. xx

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  37. Knowing that you go there often, I thought of you as soon as I heard about this, Jeanne. As a mother you get that feeling in the pit of your stomach until you actually see your child again. I can't imagine the feelings you are going through but it sounds like you are level headed and go into automatic focus. You did all a person could from afar and I am amazed by it! Please know there are caring thoughts and prayers for you, your daughter, and the country.

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  38. Oh Jeanne,
    I can only know a small amount of how you feel, being a mother myself.....you and your family must have been to hell and back....it's bad enough when one's children are late home from an evening out in London so I cannot begin to know what a terrible time you have had in the last few days. From your many posts about your family, I feel that your daughter has a very sensible head on her shoulders and will cope as best as anyone would under such devastating circumstances.....I'm sure she can't wait to get back to the loving arms of her family and a cuddle from mum, dad and her siblings.
    I wish her strength to cope and am thinking of her and everyone in Christchirch. Much love to you Jeanne. XXXX

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  39. Hi Jeanne

    I s'ppose you've read that a temporary Australian consular office has been established at the Copthorne Commodore Hotel adjacent to the Christchurch airport. I think she/you should register her details online with DFAT, if you haven't already, and subscribe to the travel advisories. The site's a bit clunky but serviceable.

    Sounds like you have a good network in NZ and a sensible girl. Keep texting.

    I'm glued to ABC 24 News which you can view online, but I guess you can get better coverage from NZ TV online too.

    Keep us posted, and do let me know if you need other info.

    Deb

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  40. Having just lived through Cyclone Yasi - the largest cyclone ever to cross the North Queensland coast - (and knowing just how terrified we were) I can understand how your daughter must be feeling. My children were texting us every hour just to see if we were okay. I was so relieved it was us going through it and not them. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your daughter (and with everyone in Christchurch.) I don't know how much more our South Pacific region can handle. It has been a horrendous summer of natural disasters. Stay strong! ;)Sharyne

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  41. Dear Jeanne, My heart and prayers are with you, your daughter and Christchurch. My husband and I visited NZ and stayed at the Orari B&B on Gloucester Street - not far from the beautiful cathedral that has now lost a tower/spire, not far from the square. A bit of me is always there. I too have the NZ Herald bookmarked and have been checking in. Such a frightening time for such beautiful people. I hope you are all holding each other again soon.

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  42. Oh My goodness thank heavens she is Ok. My daughter starts Uni in September, and will be leaving home - it must take a lot of getting used to?
    Sending you love and prayers
    Suzanne

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  43. Dearest Jeanne, I cannot imagine what you are going through. I'm holding you all in my thoughts and prayers. I'm so glad to hear she is okay.

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  44. Thinking of you...of her...of so many...and praying for their safety. So glad that she is okay.
    Jane

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  45. Thinking of you...of her...of so many...and praying for their safety. So glad that she is okay.
    Jane

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  46. Jeanne ~
    How frantic you must have been while unable to reach your daughter for so long. I am so sorry your family is going through this. I have lit a candle and offered up a prayer. I trust God will watch over your beloved daughter, and walk with your entire family during this difficult time. If there is anything I can do to be of assistance, please, let me know.
    Gentle hugs!

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  47. Thinking of everyone in Christchurch. Visited there last year and experienced one of the strong after shocks. But nothing like the last one. Made some great friends, really enjoyed our stay was always made very welcome there. We are really shocked by this.

    Glad your daughter is ok.

    BTW: Great photo though :)

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  48. Oh I am so glad that your daughter is safe. It is so sad ... And so many things seem to be going on at once that I find it hard to keep up with everything. I hope your daughter continues to stay safe.

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  49. It must have been an absolutely terrifying experience! So glad that she is safe and sound. Thoughts and prayers to all of you!

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  50. Dear Jeanne, I'm so glad your daughter is safe and sound. It's absolutely terrible what's happened.

    Thinking of you xx

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  51. You just need to see her and touch her soon! God Bless.

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  52. I'm so glad to hear that your daughter is safe. I hope all continues to go well. Blessings.

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  53. Dear Jeanne,

    I hope that you are able to make some more 'regular' contact soon so that you can be reassured, although I'm sure your arms and heart are just aching to hold her tight.

    Reading through the comments it never ceases to amaze me how special the connections we make in the blogging world truly are - practical advice, offers of real support and heartfelt wishes - a gift each and every one.

    My thoughts are with you all at this terrible time,

    Felicity x

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  54. Oh Jeanne, how anxious you must be! So good to hear she is OK though. I got into my car that afternoon and the earthquake was all i heard about. At home I sat with my eldest daughter and watched the devastating footage and cried. My daughter was a little confused why I was crying. But NZ is near and dear to my heart also. I spent 8 years there growing up (North Island), but NZ is so close to us, it really brings home how fragile life can be. Completely out of your control, but in the hands of Mother Nature....thinking of you and your gorgeous daughter. Hope she is safe and sound on the North Island xxx

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  55. Hi Jeanne...so glad your daughter is safe and sound...what a traumatic experience for the family. Watching the news every day and feel for those people who have lost loved ones.
    xxIlse

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  56. Ohhh, Jeanne, you sweet dear, what a time you've all had. When I began reading, my heart raced, fearful that the worse (or close to it) had happened. I imagined you pacing up and down, on the phone, anxious but controlled, worried but in charge of yourself, a mother's arms extended. Ohhh, lots of hugs, Jeanne.

    The evening the earthquake struck, I, too, uncharacteristically turned on the tv to see CNN's Breaking News. Apparently news crews had remained in the area after Australia's fires. The video that I saw came fast and was graphic. I finally went to bed with a heavy heart. I remembered your daughter was in Christchurch (and two followers elsewhere.)

    I'm relieved your daughter is out of harm's way and uninjured. I pray for the good people of New Zealand.

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  57. Dear Jeanne,
    I was so sorry to hear this. Please know that I will be praying for your daughter and your family - for her continued safety and your peace of mind. Will also pray for all of Christchurch during this difficult time.
    You are a strong mother Jeanne, and you will be able to welcome your daughter back before you know it!
    Take care,
    Mimi

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  58. Ohhh my goodness Jeanne - I am catching up on my blog reading before heading off and I read this! I have the biggest lump in my throat...tears running down my cheeks. Even though I know she is OK, your description of being so far from your baby just really got to me. Those poor, poor people there - thankfully your girl was OK. And isn't the communication wonderful - albeit frustrating. Atleast you got the text. Gosh. OK I need to go and calm down now. Lou x

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  59. How terrifying to receive such a text from your child – but what a relief to find that she is fine or as fine as one can be after surviving that ordeal. I have been away traveling with my daughter and was alarmed when my teenaged son called to say he'd been in a snow mobile accident but is okay except for some scratches on his face. As a parent you imagine how much worse it could have been.

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  60. Nice style. I want to be able to write that way.

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  61. Text messaging has become a popular method of communication in dating relationships. It is faster and easier to type a few abbreviated words than to have an actual verbal conversation. Thanks a lot!

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Can I just say....that I so enjoy what YOU have to say. If you would like to write to me directly, I would love to hear from you... jeannecollageoflife@gmail.com

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