Christchurch remembers Feb 22

Last updated 15:02 22/02/2014

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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Over a thousand people turned out for the civic memorial for the third anniversary of the February 22 2011 earthquake.

The service began at 12pm on the Archery Lawn of the Botanic Gardens. With temperatures hitting 30 degrees Celsius, people gathered under the trees for shelter and chairs were moved out of the direct sunlight.

Lynda Patterson, Dean of the ChristChurch Cathedral, opened the ceremony by saying "all around the nation today, people will pause in solidarity with us to remember and grieve".

"We carry the prayers and the thoughts and the hopes of the nation," she said.

"We also carry the burden of grief for those many families from all across the world who found they had lost loved ones in a foreign city so very far away."

The crowd was then welcomed by a representative from Ngai Tahu followed by the singing of the national anthem.

Speaking in remembrance of the earthquake victims, Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel asked those who had "moved on" to reach out to people still struggling.

"We have been through a lot as a city and there is still much healing to be done. This is why I wanted this commemoration to be away from the scenes of devastation that haunt our city.  I wanted us to be surrounded by beauty," Dalziel said.

Families of the quake's Japanese victims had travelled for the occasion, and yesterday laid stones and flowers at the CTV site.

Dalziel spoke of the connection between Christchurch's Peace Bell, gifted by a Japanese Mayor to the United Nations and then gifted to Christchurch fifty years ago, and Japan's Peace Sculpture in Nagasaki Park. Both monuments contain matching pounamu stones.

"I believe that today the chiming of this bell will resonate in Japan."

She spoke of the complexities of trauma and healing, and how people had different experiences and responses following the event.

"We must be respectful of the reality that not everyone is able to 'move on', which has become the phrase we use to describe those who have resolved or at least accepted their situation.

"Others cannot move on right now for a variety of reasons - for some it is unanswered questions, or the lack of resolution of their claim, for others it is the ongoing impacts of serious injuries, or the disruption to their lives and the loss of a sense of power or control over what has happened."

Dalziel shared fond memories of the sense of togetherness that pervaded the city immediately after the quakes. "Ordinary people" became heroes, she said.

"Nothing will ever compare with the sight of hundreds of students pouring down my street in Bexley - it made me feel so proud - and it continues to give me inspiration for the future."

By continuing this can-do attitude and working together, she said, "We will get through".

"Let us claim our future - remembering our past, honouring those whose lives were lost or changed forever, acknowledging the significance of Christchurch being the final resting place of many from overseas and what that means for their families, respecting all who make Christchurch their home and creating for ourselves a sense of place where we all belong."

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Dalziel received a round of applause after speaking.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee then read a letter from the Prince William and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, which was published in full in today's Press.

Wreaths were laid at the base of a temporary memorial by representatives of emergency service responders including Civil Defence, St John, Red Cross and the New Zealand Defence Force.

Then the names of the 185 people who died in Christchurch three years ago were read out. Names were grouped by country, and members of the police and other authorities read out the names, ending with those Cantabrians killed three years ago.

Christian Parkinson said the names being read out like that brought home ''how much the world was involved''. 
''That really opened it up to a world event.''

Vanessa Pollock said hearing the names read out carried more power than reading them on a page.

After the names were read, the crowd stood for a minute's silence at 12.51pm to mark the time that the earthquake hit. The only noise were cicadas, that carried on overhead while people stood and contemplated the events of three years ago.

They remained standing while a lament, Flowers of the Forest, was played on bagpipes.Then the service ended, and people were invited to carry on to the Woodland footbridge on the Avon River to throw flowers into the river as a further act of remembrance.

While people flocked to the bridge, and queued up to take a flower and throw it over, others chose to look at the memorial wreaths that had been laid, or visit the Peace Bell.

Marilyn and Michael Stewart chose to stay put and have a picnic with their daughters Tessa, 6, and Holly, 3. Marilyn Stewart said she had thought it would be good way to stop and think, given it was such a beautiful day. Michael Stewart was among the first responders on February 22, and Marilyn Stewart said she thought the city needed ''to take at least one day to remember it all''.

''People are still healing,'' she said.

Hannah and Darren Wright brought their 11-month-old daughter, Eloise, from New Brighton for the service. Hannah Wright said the gardens were a ''really beautiful place'' to have the ceremony. Though she could not bring herself to go to the first memorial service, she said it was nice to be able to bring Eloise this year.

Elsewhere in city people gathered at the CTV site and at various river and estuary locations for commemorations. Tributes to people who died in the city mall have been left at the site of a memorial plaque, including flowers and letters.


As Cantabrians head out to earthquake commemorative sites around the city, they may want to pack water and sunscreen as the day shapes up to be another scorcher.

Temperatures had already reached 24 degrees Celsius at 8am, and at 10.30am had reached the day's expected high of 27C.

MetService duty forecaster Liz Walsh said a gusty northwesterly would stick around for most of the day, so the temperature could continue to edge upwards.

Wind gusts of up to 80 kilometres per hour have been measured at the airport this morning, but Walsh said other parts of the city would be more sheltered from the gusts.

An easterly change expected this evening is likely to miss the city, though places further south, including Akaroa and Ashburton, should get the cooler breezes later today.

Do you have special plans to mark this anniversary? Comment below or email photos


A livestream video of the memorial event in the Botanic Gardens will begin at 12pm. 

- The Press


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