Thursday, February 23, 2012

Leland Rolling, Husband of Novelist and Award Winning Journalist, Tracy Rolling, Rallies Support for Earthquake Victims in Christchurch, New Zealand

Leland Rolling and wife, Tracy.
Novelist and award-winning journalist, Tracy Rolling, is a V.I.P. member of Caveman Reflections Cyber-bistro.  When she shared her family's shocking story about surviving the epicenter, I asked her if she would like to share her experience at the Cyber-bistro.  She recommended her husband for this assignment.

Today's guest post is from Tracy's husband, Leland Rolling, a member of the USA men's team and winner of the "Mr. San Diego" tennis award, who played in an international tennis tournament in Christchurch, New Zealand.  Leland is ranked in the top ten in the nation in the men's 45 division and was selected to join the elite team of Americans competing on a world-wide stage.  During the competition, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck.  This is his story, one year later...

“GET THE KIDS!!!!” The scream came from the other side of the hotel room. The noise around us was deafening… like standing next to a speeding freight train as it passes a foot away. But I heard the scream. For a flash I looked at the roof and the walls… they were moving. Wood 2x4’s were starting to poke through and glass was shattering. Cracks were moving up one side of the room. Pieces of the ceiling were falling. I reached for both my boys, grabbed them, and tried to guide them under a small computer table, having much difficulty because I really could not stand or keep my balance. I knew Tracy was nearby and somehow we found ourselves all huddled together… riding out the shaking.. for what seemed like an eternity.

Members of the USA international tennis team enter center court.
It was February 22nd 2011, 12:51PM (Feb 21st here, 3:51PM). My wife Tracy and my two sons were in ChristChurch, New Zealand for an International tennis competition. By virtue of my tennis achievements the previous year, I had been selected to be part of the United States Team representing our country in the World Tennis Championships. I decided to make the extra expense and fly us all to New Zealand and stay for 10 days.  A wonderful family vacation, I thought.

The Rollings apartment near the epicenter.
It was a magnitude 6.3 Quake. By California standards, not big. I had felt the 7.0 quake in San Diego the previous Easter. I’ve been through dozens of quakes, having lived in California my entire life. But this one was so different. Loud. Violent. Intense. We would find out later the epicenter of this quake was only a couple miles from our hotel and only 5KM deep. Most quakes are 30-50KM deep or more. Our 4th floor room was a mess. The microwave had flown out of the wall and landed in the middle of the room (full of food we were warming). Tables were knocked over. Glass everywhere. Everything had ended up on the floor.

Hotel staff came immediately and told us to get out of the room and out of the hotel. No time to think, just go. We were not fully dressed… I had just come back from practice. No time to grab anything. Could be a gas leak. Building could be on fire. So Tracy rushed the boys out and down a flight of concrete stairs (thank God the stairs were in tact…could have been a terrible situation). I grabbed only a few things and followed. Another 5.7 aftershock hit. Violent. Looked as if the street lights would flip over and the 100 year old trees in the park across the street would uproot.

A street view of Christchurch moments after the quake.
We were in shock. Frightened. Both the boys cried. They wanted to go home right then. We had only a few things. No shoes. No clothes. No money. For about an hour we were completely uncertain of what might happen next. Tracy started to feel pain in her back. Turns out she broke several ribs trying to get under the computer table in the hotel room. And she banged her head too. Boys thankfully were physically unhurt. Just emotionally done.  

As time passed (we spent a few hours in a Salvation Army Refugee camp that had been set up, then met up with some other tennis players who were playing an hour south of ChristChurch and had a hotel room), a few days later we arranged our travel home and started to realize the impact this was going to have on the people of the city. We were the lucky ones. Bruised, battered, scared, tired, but going to get home eventually For the rest of the people in ChristChurch, the nightmare was just beginning. Their Infrastructure was destroyed – water, sewer, roads, phone, electricity.. all severely damaged. Houses wiped out either completely or partially. 185 people dead, most of them in two buildings that collapsed, one of which was a quarter-block from our hotel.

The tennis courts were destroyed during the earthquake.
It’s a year later and very few buildings have been rebuilt. The main commerce section of the city has been replaced with shipping containers that are being used as store fronts, just to insure the citizens have access to food, water and other essentials. Thousands of people have been displaced. Few businesses are up and running that were in the center of town. This event has had an incredible effect on the people.

But they are determined, many of them, to stay and rebuild. The city has history and its people want that history to continue. ChristChurch was (is) the second largest city in the country, next to Auckland. And the people there want to see it thrive once again. They are kind people. Very generous. Many of them came to the refugee camp and offered up their homes (even if they were damaged) to people that day who had no place to go. And many lost loved ones, family members, children.

We need to remember the people of ChristChurch. I am lucky that my life continued after that day and I was able to come home to a roof, and water, and food. Not everyone there has that luxury, even today.


 Leland and his wife, Tracy, would like to rally your support to help the good people of Christchurch who are still dealing with numerous aftershocks, loss of power, and lack of funds one year after the quake. You can help these resilient people rebuild by sending your donation to one of the following support groups:

MatchPoint International -

More direct links organizations in New Zealand providing relief -

Please share this story with a friend and help this community recover.  Thanks for your support. 

Want the latest news about cleanup efforts in Christchurch, New Zealand?  Click here


  1. Leland and I once worked together in the photo-ad publishing industry.  His wife is working on her first novel.  I'm thankful for their commitment to serve our community.  Both are strong role models.  Thanks, Rolling family, for sharing your story at the Cyber-bistro.

  2. Thanks for sharing our story Mike, you are an amazing person!

  3.  Tracy,

    Glad to help.  Happy to have friends like the Rolling family.  God bless you.

  4. Great family, great story, great cause!  :)

  5. Thanks for sharing this and reminding me of New Zealand.  I had no idea that after a year they were still in such a crisis.  I'm glad you made it out safely and are spreading this message.

  6. Thanks for joining the conversation, Sutton.  Leland told me they had to demolish the hotel they were staying in due to the extensive damage. I will ask Leland to keep us updated here at the Cyber-bistro.