Letter, Irene M Earnshaw
21 Jan 2002
Irene was twelve and a half years old, and had a sister Lorna, aged nine, and a sister Beryl, aged five. It was her first day of attending the Napier Technical College to begin a commercial course. She and her friend Beatrice Craig (later Mrs Harold Pond) walked to school. Irene and Beatrice were in an upstairs classroom at the centre of the building when the earthquake struck. She was unable to exit the room and had to wait to be rescued as the ceiling and the floor had collapsed. They were pulled out of a small space and taken along a corridor and then Irene made her way to the footpath where she waited a while before walking home. On her way home she met up with Beatrice and they made the journey together. Irene remembers seeing an orange-red cloud which was the sun shining through the red brick dust from the collapsed buildings.
Her father was nearly fifty and had biked home from his job at Awatoto following the earthquake, to check on his family. The family went up Guy's Hill Road to escape the feared tidal wave. They stayed in a paddock belonging to Frank and Fanny Ormond. Irene's grandfather who lived with them stayed put in their house in Napier and everyone but her father was evacuated to Dannevirke. They stayed with the Miller family in Mangatera in a small cottage for five weeks.
On their return to Napier, refugees who had been students at the Technical College attended classes in marquees set up on the grounds of of the current Napier Intermediate School before learning that the Technical College was not going to be rebuilt and that female students would now attend Napier Girls' High School and the boys, Napier Boys' High School.