It was just a minute or two after midnight when New Zealand was sleeping (or should have been) when we were rudely awaken.
My first inkling that anything was amiss was hearing DH say, "Put a pillow over your head."
Still more asleep than awake I failed to immediately comprehend.
Until I realised the house was shaking.
Three minutes they said it lasted. Really? Only three minutes?
Some time during those long one hundred and eighty seconds when we thought it would never be over I heard doors swinging open and shut.
DH reminded me to keep my head under the pillow and then commented, "There's going to be a lot of damage around town."
It was at that point that the power went out.
I heard DH call out to Son#4 and ask if he was okay and then DH fumbled around in the dark and located a torch. We proceeded then to remove ourselves to the hallway where Son#4 was already sheltering in a doorway and probably hoping his guitars were not going to fall off the wall!
When the shaking finally subsided and DH had checked the inside of the house, we returned to bed. It's an eerie feeling lying in a darkened house after an earthquake not knowing the extent of the damage, whether family and friends are safe, whether another shake will follow soon after.
We held on to each other and prayed - for family, for those affected - and waited for sleep to return. It did and was not interrupted by further shakes. Some time during the night power was restored.
On waking we learnt that it had been a 7.5 earthquake (later upgraded to 7.8) and that the epicentre was in the upper South Island. Surprising given how strongly we felt it. DH, who has felt far more earthquakes than I have, said it was the biggest he had ever experienced. The Newcastle earthquake which killed 13 people and was my first real experience of an earthquake felt like a swing in a hammock compared to what we felt last night.
There have been many more throughout today but for us, so far from the epicentre, most have been only gentle swaying motions, not the constant rolling and jolting of last night's shake. However, for those most affected, it has probably meant going about their day with the taste of fear always in their mouths and the thought, "Will this be The One?" constantly in their minds.
DH's prediction was wrong: there was surprisingly little damage around town although at least one school had to be closed due to lack of power. Son#1 reported losing water from their water tanks; Son#2 that DIL#2 had had contractions after the event; Sons #3 and #5, further north, didn't feel a thing; and Son#4's guitars are still in tact.