SAXONBURG (KDKA) — Geneva College student Nancy Paul was in New Zealand studying abroad when the massive earthquake hit on Tuesday.

“We all had to get underneath our desks when the whole building was shaking and the lights were stirring,” said Paul in a phone conversation with KDKA’s David Highfield. “It was the scariest thing ever!”

She says she was in a classroom at a school which is about 15 minutes from Christchurch where the quake hit hard. Buildings collapsed and 113 bodies have been pulled from the rubble in Christchurch, with many more people still missing.

Paul says she felt the quake for at least 20 seconds. At first, the students looked at each other until their professor got under a desk and they followed suit.

Once it was over, she sent a message to her mother. “I texted her as soon as I knew I was okay,” said Nancy Paul.

Rita Paul in Saxonburg, Butler County, hadn’t even heard about the quake at that point.

“It said: ‘Mom I’m okay. Pray for me,'” Ms. Paul said. “I called her, and she told me she was outside in a field because they just had a big earthquake! And I say, ‘Are you serious?’ I went to the TV set and turned it on. About four or five minutes later, it came on the screen and I could not believe it!”

Nancy Paul now wants to go into Christchurch to help with relief efforts, but says, “The students aren’t supposed to go into the city yet to volunteer because of all the devastation.” In fact, her group has moved even farther away from the quake’s center for the time being.

She is due back in America in June. Given what happened so close to her, she considers herself lucky to be unharmed. “I’m just thankful to be okay and well.”

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