Christchurch Earthquake 2011
A New Zealand Bravery Decoration medal pinned to Bryce Curran's chest represented two moving moments for the heroic Christchurch anaesthetist today.
When Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae presented Curran's medal, it was recognition for his work to save a man trapped in the collapsed Pyne Gould Corporation building, but it also brought a sense of closure.
Curran was one of 27 recipients honoured with New Zealand Bravery Awards today at an an investiture ceremony for their courage to save lives after the deadly February 22, 2011 earthquake.
Five police officers, 18 firefighters, two doctors, a navy lieutenant commander, and a Christchurch businessman were announced as the recipients on June 23.
About 150 family, friends and colleagues gathered at the Transitional Christchurch Cathedral, including Police Commissioner Mike Bush, Fire Service chief Paul Baxter and Selwyn MP and Internal Affairs Minister Amy Adams.
Curran was honoured for his role in saving Brian Coker, whose legs needed amputating to free him from the collapsed building.
Fate brought him, Australian urologist Lydia Johns-Putra, firefighter Scott Shadbolt and police sergeant Danny Johanson together that day.
They saved Coker by using a Leatherman knife and a hacksaw to cut his legs above the knee in a 15-minute procedure.
Today was the second time the quartet and Coker, who now walks on prosthetics, have reconnected since that day. Curran and Johns-Putra were the only recipients of the New Zealand Bravery Decoration for exceptional bravery. The 25 others received a New Zealand Bravery Medal.
It was a proud moment for Curran, but he hoped it would be a new beginning 3-1/2 years on.
"I think there's now a sense of closure and I think we can all move on to our normal lives," Curran said.
"It was an extreme event and it's very easy to have the memory resurface, but I'm comfortable with the memory because Brian has done so well."
Joining Curran on stage was a large contingent of firefighters, many of whom tunnelled into collapsed buildings to save lives without breathing apparatus or helmets.
Baxter said many were embarrassed and humbled by the occasion.
"Sure, their training and job expects them to do things like this but that day was above and beyond," Baxter said.
Mateparae said it was a privilege to recognise the recipients' "professionalism, dedication and extraordinary courage".
"We recall the buildings, plumes of dust and smoke, the sirens, the noise. We remember the exhausted and anxious faces of people scrambling over the rubble, but what we can't imagine is the circumstances these 27 brave people went through to ensure people were saved."
- The Press
Is it worth spending extra to repair heritage buildings?Related story: Landmark church nearly $1m short