Co-workers Deb Reardon and Andrea Latif shared a moment of silence yesterday for their former home, Christchurch.

The two women met at Ballance Agri-Nutrients in Tauranga after moving away from Christchurch after the 2011 quake devastated the city.

I had just started work when it hit. It threw me back against the windows. We had to commando crawl under our desk, we couldn't stand up or move.

The pair were among thousands of people across the country to mark the fifth anniversary of the disaster which claimed 185 lives.

Deb Reardon said the biggest benefit of moving away from Christchurch was not living in fear of aftershocks.


"You would just get lulled into this nice sense of security and then you have a big one like what happened on Valentine's Day. It just rocks your world again and you have to start from scratch."

Ms Reardon was in the Christchurch IRD building across from the CCTV building when the quake struck.

Read more: Crosby's absence in race stirs plenty of interest in top job

"I had just started work when it hit. It threw me back against the windows. We had to commando crawl under our desk, we couldn't stand up or move, so we huddled there under the desks until it stopped."

At one point she noticed people running around her floor. She popped her head up to tell them to get back under their desks and she saw the CCTV building collapse.

"When it stopped, it was all just dust. You couldn't see anything. It looked like 9/11, the same thick dust you saw in those pictures."

After the quake stopped they evacuated from the building.

"I could hear people in the CCTV building crying out for help and there was nothing I could do to get up there and help anyone. The guilt of walking past them, that affected me for quite some time."

After the June 13, 2011 quakes, Ms Reardon decided it was time for her family to leave Christchurch and by July 1 they had moved to the Bay of Plenty.

Andrea Latif was on the other side of the city, in Hornby, when the quake struck.

"I didn't realise how bad it was. I was on the phone to a client and we talked each other through it. That was until I got a call from the school, telling me to come and get one of my children, 'they have lost the plot'.

"As I got closer to town, I thought 'oh, this isn't so good'. I picked the kids up and started driving to my grandmother's.

"The 20-minute trip took us an hour-and-a-half. I stopped and got gas on the way because I had realised how bad it was."

On February 23, she drove her grandmother to Blenheim because she could not cope with the stress. Her grandmother then flew to Auckland and on to Melbourne and did not come back to New Zealand for several months.

One of her sons suffered from headaches for eight weeks before the June earthquake shook Christchurch again.

"We were fighting and arguing with him every day about going to school.

"There was screaming, yelling and crying. Not his personality at all. On June 13, there was another quake, he rang me and said come and get me.

"I got there and there was a bigger earthquake, I got out of the car and I couldn't stand up, I was on the ground and buildings were swaying and rattling.

"Four school bells were going and children were screaming.

"We went home, made the decision and we were up here on August 1."

Five years on:

* The names of all 185 who died were read before a musical interlude of yesterday's service and a minute's silence at 12.51pm at Christchurch's Botanical Gardens.