Louis Harrison-Aydon

Stories / Louis Harrison-Aydon

I was in the music department at school, which was located in the basement of the bus exchange, when the February 2011 quake struck.

I was with a teacher and the look of fear on his face was what made me realise how big the earthquake was.

When we came out onto Cashel Street I looked over and noticed the entrance to the Link Centre had caved in. I saw my friend Sebastian and it felt like we both combined as one and moved in to help – we didn’t even talk about it – we just did.

There was a woman and a man buried by the rubble. I tried to find the man’s pulse, but there was none. We continued to remove the rubble, including a huge sheet of iron, so that the woman (who was alive) and the body of the man – who I later found out was called Joe – could be removed. I had blood on my hands for six hours until I found some water.

A week after the quakes, Sebastian and I went to Melbourne with the Air Force cadets. I spent the week not thinking about the quakes, but was haunted by nightmares when I returned.

I went to a counsellor, but just talking and trying to process it just didn’t work for me. I don’t know why, but what I really wanted was to go back into town to see where it all happened.

Basically I was seeking information, and the more I found out about Joe, the better I felt.

Gaining confidence and reassurance

I also had some sessions with a different counsellor and his realistic approach really worked for me. He didn’t have to ask me how I felt – he said I would be feeling shit and nothing could change that. I had no motivation for stuff that I didn’t want to do or wasn’t interested in, and my schoolwork took a dive.

What the counsellor did do was help me focus on what I would like to achieve with my year. I love music so that’s where I decided to put my energy. I have gained a lot of confidence and what I have achieved with music since then is amazing.

I have learned a lot about life. Sure it’s bad, but I just have to deal with it. I don’t call what I did bravery though. It was just interesting to see how I responded to an emergency situation.

Content and image copyright: Guy Frederick from his NZ Mental Health Media Grant project, The Space Between Words