On Monday I was in the middle of writing a story when a rapid series of social media pings demanded my attention.
It was 2.17pm.
In my inbox were four or five photos from four or five people of a billowing Whakaari/White Island with the subject line 'Eruption?'.
As a long-time Whakatāne resident, seeing (or hearing) the words Whakaari and eruption in a single sentence is not cause for alarm. To most, changing alert levels may register but are never cause for concern.
It is routine to look for her (Whakaari) when at a height or at the shore, and to see her silently puffing away is reassurance things are how they are meant to be in the Eastern Bay.
At 2.17pm on Monday I nonchalantly suggested a colleague give GeoNet a call and when the response came, normality ended.
The volcano could have erupted in the desolation of morning, it could have erupted during the emptiness of night, but it didn't. It erupted as White Island Tours staff showed tourists our jewel in the crown.
Whakaari is a harsh environment without an explosion. It's hot, dry and acidic with relief only at the wharf-end of the island where the sulphur-stained ocean contrasts with the grey of the rock.
An eruption of steam, ash and noxious gas in that environment would be the definition of hell. And locals know that.
Former mayor and commercial dive operator Tony Bonne was unaware of the unfolding tragedy until he got a phone call from a friend in Rotorua.
"I was showing people into our B&B and made a comment about White Island being very active," Bonne told me. "It wasn't until I got a call telling me a friend's son had lost his life on the island, I became aware of the gravity of the situation."
Bonne said 15 years of diving near White Island meant he was well aware of the terrain.
"It's harsh out there. People often used to say to me it's like walking on the moon [or how they'd expect the moon to be]. I think its best described by saying when you're on the island you are aware there are dangers all around."
He said for 30-odd years Whakatāne had been fortunate to have never experienced a disaster like this.
"There has been eruptions, even big eruptions, but they have been at night. There was a helicopter stranded on White overnight in the 1980s because of ashfall but we just went and got him the next day."
Had we become complacent?
Bonne said lots of people had been asking him what he thought the future of the island would be.
"I can't answer that. Maybe we have something simple like on the island at alert level one, around the island at alert level 2 and above."
By 3pm on Monday I was as close to the wharf as I could be and people were talking about the alert level being at 2. Those of us there knew people had been on the island – we didn't need any more information to know that was bad. Emergency workers swarming over the boat ramp car park and a cordon only reaffirmed it.
People started to arrive and it was easy to differentiate between those who had a loved one on the island and those who didn't. The latter were alarmed, the former distraught.
Then the first boat carrying passengers arrived. Ash-covered limbs hid the burns but the moans and screams told us of their pain. There was a second boat – all the while ambulances rolled in and out and in and out.
Then quiet descended.
As the week went on, more information came to light, the dead, the injured, the heroes, the anger, the pain – but uncertainty prevailed. It still does.
Who are the dead and injured, what are their stories and will we ever get to hear them?
Was someone to blame and what will become of Whakaari?
This is the time of the year when our little town swells with holidaymakers flocking to Ohope to enjoy 11kms of white Pacific beach sand and to unwind and put the year to bed.
The atmosphere is normally Christmassy and relaxed, but not this week.
This week faces have not been festive but sombre. There are still smiles but they are hesitant, full of sadness for what has taken place and the uncertainty of it all.
The streets seem quieter than normal, the shops a little emptier than they should be and today our Christmas Parade reminds us the festive season is upon us.
Except nothing feels festive and I can't help feeling sad and angry at Whakaari for what she has done.
The story circulating locally suggests maybe Whakaari had become a little sick of us tramping and trampling all over her and she said enough.
But that's just silly because Whakaari is an active volcano. And active volcanoes can kill.