Christchurch earthquake memorial: Day to grieve, comfort
A day to grieve and pay respect. A day to give thanks and seek comfort. A day to celebrate resilience and take strength for the future. A day to bring races, creeds and citizens together. A day to move on.
The thousands who came to the National Christchurch Memorial Service in Hagley Park yesterday came for many reasons and all would, after a hot, burning day, have gone home happy they had come.
Anita Graham, who flew from Melbourne to her hometown for the memorial, said it was a "beautiful" occasion.
"The most emotional thing was when Hayley Westenra sang Amazing Grace. That got me."
Graham said she and her group felt more positive after the service.
Making his way home, Willie Daniels said: "It was awesome. I think it was bloody great."
Sam Johnson, organiser of the volunteer Student Army, agreed. "It was a very moving service and really lovely to have the prayers from different denominations."
USAR Task Force deputy leader Ralph Moore said a prolonged standing ovation as the rescuers arrived in Hagley Park was overwhelming.
"That was wonderful," he said. "Just to see the warmth pouring out towards us there. We're all just typical Christchurch boys and don't expect any fuss to be made and for people to applaud us it was totally unexpected."
The service hit the right note on many counts. The speeches were eloquent and inspiring, the music, especially a stunning Amazing Grace from Christchurch singer Hayley Westenra which had some in tears, gave the occasion spirit and colour and a diverse, sombre and calm crowd made for an unforgettable occasion. The service will be remembered for many powerful moments and touches:
The silence at 12.51pm. "Let us be still," said Dean of Christchurch Peter Beck, and all that could be heard for the next two minutes was the wind in the trees and the generators humming away to keep the power on.
An impromptu Pokarekare Ana by Westenra and a Muslim blessing for the dead being followed by a Jewish one.
Japan and its recent calamity not being forgotten, with many speakers conveying sympathy and thoughts.
Prince William passing on his grandmother's sympathy, repeating her sentiment "grief is the price we pay for love".
The lone Christchurch piper Richard Hawke, before his biggest live audience, playing Flowers of the Forest.
Attendance of Victory Cross winner Willie Apiata and representatives of the Pike River disaster families.
The blast of the stirring Crusaders anthem Vangelis 1492 Conquest of Paradise, to highlight the loss of a stadium.
The 22 New Zealand flags on either side of the stage. A heartfelt national anthem.
The standing ovation for USAR guys as they arrived. A marvellous rendition of How Great Thou Art.
There were lighter moments too. The clamour at Prince William's entrance, his mangling of "kia kaha", the reference by Bishop Victoria Matthews to quake oracle Ken Ring, the fire in the brazier that failed to flame until student army leader Sam Johnson fiddled with something and kaumatua Henare Tau telling Prince William "may you nibble at the apple and be fruitful".
The thousands who attended began streaming into Hagley Park well before noon under a blue autumn sky in which the slogan Rise Up Christchurch flew from a kite.
Many families brought several generations and their picnic baskets, cushions, rugs to put on the patchy grass, sunhats, chairs and summer clothes. Canterbury's red and black, often in the form of a Crusaders' jersey, was everywhere.
Rangiora vet Sam Taylor said he had donned the red and black jersey to show solidarity. His fiancee, Mitzi Milligan, and friend Vanessa Clements also wore red and black but more fashionably.
Ginny Cairns, who lived in the city centre before the quake, said she and her friends had come because "we need to be together today".
"We wanted to pay our respects and we feel it's a moving on point," said Lindsey Fagan, of Burwood.
Shane and Kathryn Holdsworth brought along their twins Liliana and Elysia, 7. "The city is grieving and by coming together there is support," Kathryn said.
Grant Harris, a city council worker, had brought along his son Isaiah, 9. "It's important he is here," Harris said. "It's a big day for children. Hopefully after this we can move on."
Andrea Abrams, from Burnside, was at the service with her parents Dawn and John and her daughters Rosemary, 9, and Mathilde, 7. "I'm here to see Prince William and support Christchurch," she said. "What a perfect day. How often do we get no wind?"
The speeches emphasised the themes of lamenting the dead and injured, celebrating the resilience and kindness of Cantabrians and looking to the future.
Leading the two-minutes silence, the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, the Rev Peter Beck, said "we have lost so much".
"For myself I hold tears of thankfulness for the amazing spirit that is within us. We call it the Canterbury spirit. It is in the worst of times we often see the best in people and that is what we have seen in the last few weeks."
He paused to wait for the applause, prompted by a thank you to the emergency services, to subside.
"We are here all of us people of many faiths, people of no faith, but we come in a common purpose. Whatever your faith may be, I hope you will allow the prayers of the church, of many faiths that are here, to be a vehicle for each of you as we mourn."
The service was "just another step on the journey", he said. "Today, as we begin to rebuild our lives, our city, we look to the future with hope and the resilience that has made us the people of Christchurch."
Prime Minister John Key said the earthquake had "left scars that will never be erased from our land and our hearts". The dead were "faces of a Christchurch that will never be as it was again".
"We are conscious we are united in our loss with families in more than 20 countries. We embrace them as part of the wider New Zealand community. Your family members have become part of the story of this city and we remember your loved ones as we remember our own."
Uncertainty would make the recovery slow, painful and difficult, but he also wanted to talk about hope and healing.
"From the first moments the response has been tremendous. There are people alerted by the cries of total strangers who went immediately to their aid. The country has rallied magnificently. It goes beyond our shores."
He paid tribute to the resilience of every Christchurch citizen who had done what must be done.
"They have resisted despair and had the bravery to go on. These have been such difficult days. Here in the beautiful Hagley Park we see a face of a city that is broken but not beaten. Let us today resolve to rise again.
"We need to learn from the tragedy of February 22 but there are many things we have learned already. We have learned the power not only of individuals but also the power of community. We have witnessed in the past three weeks the very best of human spirit. We have seen the coming together of a city and a nation."
Prince William, wearing a Maori cloak given to him by Ngai Tahu kaumatua, conveyed the condolences of the royal family.
"My grandmother once said that grief is the price you pay for love. Here today we love and we grieve," the prince told the crowd.
He also brought a personal message, he said, which arose from seeing the tragedy unfold from afar.
"It is a message about strength through kindness. About fortitude. Courage and understated determination have always been the hallmarks of New Zealanders, of Cantabrians. These things the world has long known. But to see them so starkly demonstrated has been humbling. Put simply, you are an inspiration to all people. I count myself enormously privileged to be here to tell you that. Kia kaha, be strong."
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker, speaking passionately and without notes, said Christchurch could honour the dead by dedicating itself to rebuilding a place of great learning.
"How do we find a way to make sense of this thing. I look to the families of those we have lost. We have to find inspiration to move forward. Those lives that have been lost have to be given real meaning as this city goes forward. We have to make here in this city a stage, a doorway through which our young and the young of other nations can aspire to the best. We think of the business people. We will rebuild a city in which businesses can prosper and jobs can be recreated.
"In the end to give meaning to this terrible event we have to have faith in ourselves. From suffering and pain, we have to reach into our hearts and our spirit and our self-belief to build the safest city so this thing never happens again.
"We will rebuild the shattered suburban fabric. We will stand by our people. We will have a city that will again be the most beautiful city on the planet to live. That is our goal."
The service ended about 2.30pm with floral tributes laid by dignatories after which Prince William moved into an area set aside for families of victims.
The Christ Church Cathedral Choir also sang, yet another reminder of all that had been lost but with a resolve to carry on.