Canterbury earthquake memorial 'a place to grieve and hope' - English
Christchurch's earthquake memorial is "a place to grieve, but also a place to hope", says Prime Minister Bill English.
English addressed the thousands of people gathered on Wednesday afternoon at the unveiling of Oi Manawa, the memorial to the 185 people who died in the magnitude-6.3 earthquake on February 22, 2011.
Members of the public crammed into the area around the Montreal St bridge, flanking the official guests and dignitaries on the banks of the Avon River. Onlookers found vantage points in offices and apartments overlooking the scene, affording a view of the memorial.
English's message spoke mostly to those who died and those they left behind.
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"There are 185 people who cannot join us today," he said.
"We feel their absence keenly."
He addressed the victims' families directly: "We cannot know what fear or courage or hope filled the past moments of your loved ones. Today we stand with you and those who watched them go. Families, friends, workmates and complete strangers who reached for them and tried their utmost to protect them and comfort them.
"For years to come people will come to this place to remember and honour your loss as we hope today that this memorial of hopes will stitch up the ragged edges of broken hearts. You can know that the memories of your loved ones are at the foundations of this renewed city. May the living live with hope and those who have died rest in peace."
Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy, who officially opened the memorial, read a message from Queen Elizabeth II in which she said she hoped the wall was "a place of solace and reflection".
"[Today] . . . there will be difficult and painful memories, but also memories of many heroic and selfless acts, of the caring and creative nature of the Christchurch people and of the help that came so readily from the emergency and rescue personnel," the Queen's message said.
"I hope that the new memorial will provide a place to remember; to grieve for what is lost and to give thanks for what remains. I am sure it will be [a] particularly special place for the families of those who lost their lives, for those who were seriously injured in the earthquakes. They will be joined by many others from New Zealand and around the world who wish to pause and reflect on that difficult time."
At 12.51pm, the time the earthquake struck, all heads were bowed. Had they looked up they would have seen the big screen showing two red roses drifting slowly down the Avon River.
"As this river flows towards the sea, its life and movement reflect the strength that comes from common effort and the hope and determination to overcome the trials that beset us," Reddy said.
"This memorial is a pledge from us, the living, to those that we have loved and lost. A pledge that they will not be forgotten."
Oi Manawa, meaning "tremor of the heart", was designed by Slovenian architect Grega Vezjak. It is a 112.5-metre-long wall made of concrete and clad in Italian marble. It features the names of all 185 victims and sits on the banks of the Avon River near the intersection of Montreal St and Oxford Tce.
The crowd included victims' family and friends, some of whom have travelled from abroad and members of the public. It also featured musical items from Marlon Williams, Timua Brennan and the New Zealand Army Band.
The name of every victim was read as it appeared on the wall.
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At the empty site on the corner of Madras and Cashel St, flowers were piled together as a harrowing reminder of the 115 lives lost in the CTV building.
One emotional man crouched alone, holding a baby. In full uniform, five St John ambulance workers walked in slow formation to the edge of the ceremony and bowed their heads. A woman added a bunch of flowers to the growing mound just moments before 12.51pm struck.
Friends and loved ones of those who died marked the occasion with the release of dozens of red and black balloons. As tears trickled down their faces, they stood close together and watched the balloons fade to specks as they observed a minute's silence.
The quiet lingered for several minutes afterwards before the crowd dispersed.
A display housing vases had been erected on the site as a place for families to visit and leave mementos. On the sixth anniversary, it was streamed with brightly-coloured handcrafted paper cranes, messages and wreaths, some new and others worn with age.
Across the road at the white chair memorial, a red flower had been placed on each of the 185 chairs, and members of the public were paying their respects there. A baby's bassinet at the front overflowed with bouquets.
'I MISS YOU SO MUCH'
Strung around a tree nearby Oi Manawa, notes to those who died dangled like petals, heartfelt words scrawled in many languages.
"Dear mum, I miss you so much, think about you every day," wrote Marie.
"Your two granddaughters miss you as well."
On Wednesday morning, commuters on their way to work paused on the Montreal St bridge, looking out over the water to Oi Manawa.
At the midday ceremony, city resident Jocelyn Smith said: "It's an extreme honour to the city and the people – to those who lost their lives or loved ones, and also to those who have served in the response and rebuild."
Megan Reilly, also of Christchurch, said she really liked the fact the families were consulted about the memorial.
"It seems nice as a place of reflection," she said.
The wall was revealed to families and friends of victims at a private ceremony on Tuesday.
Montreal St was closed from Oxford Tce between 10am and 2.30pm, Oxford Tce was closed until 2.30pm, and Cambridge Tce was closed until 6pm.