Remembering tragedy and compassion
by Ann van Engelen
Selwyn residents joined with members of the Christchurch community at the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial, on Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of the February 22, 2011 earthquake.
Tributes were paid to the people who helped in the aftermath of the disaster, while first responders and representatives of different nationalities read out the names of the 185 people who lost their lives.
“We gather to remember those who cared for us. At the same time we remember those we lost and all that changed for us as a result of the earthquake that struck our city on February 22, nine years ago,’’ said Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel.
“There are so many stories of those who picked us up when we were down, who listened to us, who hugged us, brought the casseroles and baking, and helped us fix the damage that was wrought. Every gesture, no matter how large or small, has helped us on our journey.
On this ninth anniversary, we recall all those who were there when we needed them.’’
A minute’s silence was observed at 12.51pm — the time the earthquake struck. The poem We Remember Them was read by two representatives from the Quake Families Trust and people were invited to pay their respects at the memorial wall. People also dropped flowers into the Avon River in a final act of remembrance as they walked across Montreal Street bridge.
Mayor of Selwyn, Sam Broughton, says as council neighbours it has been good to be in a position to support people and businesses affected by the earthquake sequence.
“Our community too has experienced natural disasters, which affect old and young, visitors and locals, alike. Disasters are difficult to navigate and make sense of but provide an opportunity to get together with one another and offer the support of a cup of tea with a neighbour or friend.”
Canterbury Emergency Services staff recalled the magnitude of events the day brought and the support Christchurch received both nationally and internationally.
“Some didn’t call Christchurch home, that didn’t matter to us. We took them into our hearts and grieved for their loss,” said a Fire and Emergency New Zealand spokesperson.
“We lost family, friends and complete strangers that day and collectively as a region — our hearts were broken. The nation and the world stood beside and grieved with us.
“Our firefighters worked day and night to rescue those they could and recover those who had passed. They gave their everything to protect the people of Christchurch who needed their help. Many weren’t sure how their own families had faired. The synchronised working of all Canterbury Emergency Services was a sight to behold, blue, green, black, red — the colour of uniform didn’t matter.
“The International Search and Rescue teams who came to assist were beautiful souls dressed in overalls and helmets. Their assistance and compassion were exceptional — their dignity and professionalism are truly inspiring. Nine years on and the landscape of the city may be different, but the scars run deep and so too does our bond. So here we stand side by side, silently reflecting on what was, what has been and what is to come.”