Climbing inside a bus crushed by fallen facades, and spending hours digging through masonry and bricks to find and free those still alive, is something Craig Titheridge has never forgotten.
The 41-year-old Armstrong Motor Group mechanic was one of many Cantabrians who received an earthquake hero award for putting their lives on the line to help save others, two years ago today.
February 22, 2011, started out as just another day at work for Mr Titheridge. At 12.51pm, after the magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck, the front part of the grooming building collapsed, narrowly missing people.
From the building, on the corner of St Asaph St and Durham St, Mr Titheridge could see clouds of dust and said the sound of car and burglar alarms, people crying and shouting, filled the air.
With no hard hats and just a few tools, Mr Titheridge and five mechanics walked towards Colombo St.
"I'd never seen anything like it. Two buses were crushed. People were injured. People were dead. We went straight to them.
"People were completely buried in rubble. We started digging, desperately trying to free those who were still alive.
"The front bus was the worst hit. There was no roof, the side was buried in rubble and there was no front or back,'' he said.
The group pulled four people out of the buses but only one woman, Ann Brower, survived.
"Everyone was working hard to get Ann out,'' he said.
Continuous aftershocks made it hard for Mr Titheridge and his colleagues to search for trapped people but they managed to rescue a woman before the building she was in collapsed.
"Buildings were falling down around us. It was carnage. The smell got fairly nasty at one point. Broken gas mains were making us cough and gag but we wanted to keep going,'' he said.
Police turned the group away due to a lack of safety gear but that didn't deter them from re-gaining entry into the disaster zone to help.
"The ladies at MasterTrade were doing a stocktake and they gave us high-viz vests and hard hats and that's how we got back in. Everyone just jumped straight in and started help- ing.
"You couldn't just stand there and think about what to do. You had to do it,'' he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Titheridge's wife, Jo, who was working from home in Redwood at the time of the quake, was in "panic mode" because she couldn't get hold of Craig and didn't communicate with him until he arrived home in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
"She had no idea how bad the earthquake was until her brother, in Australia, had texted her to make sure everyone was alright. He had been watching the disaster unfold on TV,'' he said.
Eight bus passengers, four pedestrians and four others died on Colombo St and it's a scene that Mr Titheridge sees everyday.
"It's only about 100 metres away from work. It's something you see everyday and it's not something you can just forget,'' he said.
In light of the disaster, Mr Titheridge was inspired to join the Red Cross and he's one of 50 volunteers from around New Zealand who is a member of the National Disaster Response Team.
"You have to do what you've got to do. I'm not afraid of anything. I've seen the worst,'' he said.
Mr Titheridge will walk to Colombo St and stand in silence at 12.51pm to mark the final resting place of those who died, two years ago today