Life Inside the Cordon

On Feb. 22, 2011, a massive earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 185 people. This book is the diary of my Life Inside the Cordon, working for the New Zealand Army for six months before the cordon, later known as the CBD Red Zone, was opened to the public.

It was written as a memoir for my son, James, begun as a diary for him because he was only two years old when I was working on the cordon, and I felt guilty having to put him in preschool while I worked twelve hours a day.

The story begins with my life in Dunedin and how I was struggling to deal with work, family, and a broken marriage. It’s about my decision to move and start my life over, and how I struggled to get to Christchurch, looking for a fresh start.

My memoir provides a daily account of conversations I had with locals, tourists, and contractors working within the cordon, disclosing their thoughts and feelings about Christchurch and the earthquake. The last cordons were removed on June 30, 2013, over two years after the quake struck.

This natural disaster played a large part of the emotional rollercoaster I was going through at the time, including the tragedies of my son’s car accident and a death in the family.

There’s also the light side, featuring life’s funny moments as well as my views on the differences between the rich and poor in Christchurch, and how the problems they face are vastly different.

Kim O’Brien-Williams grew up in Brighton, a small town just outside of Dunedin, New Zealand.

She currently lives on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia.

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