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Monday, February 28, 2011

Remembering Loved Ones Lost

Christchurch earthquake: Remembering loved ones lost

Last updated 05:00 01/03/2011
Today the nation will stop at 12.51pm to observe two minutes' silence as a sign of unity for the people of Christchurch and out of respect for those who lost their lives.

Has it really been a week? It seems like the devastating 6.3 quake happened only a day or two ago. It's all too surreal.

Messages of support from around the world land through the fog, offering strength.

A firefighter who survived 9/11 plans to stand in front of the New York monument in silence. "Kia kaha," he writes.

The group of Australian mothers who lost loved ones to floods and other natural disasters will meet in a park and pray in silence together.

A chef from Italy I have never met will gather together friends and light candles in silence. In Britain, a group of Cantabrians are meeting for "a pint and a curry and a cry".

One writes that although she hasn't lived here for 10 years she feels homeless. Kiwis on Facebook change their profile pictures to black and red and share fundraising ideas.

The last time New Zealand stopped to mourn was on December 2 when New Zealand ground to a halt to mark the 29 men killed in the Pike River Mine tragedy.

Then I remember stopping still outside The Press building in Cathedral Square. Strangers around me did the same.

As the bells rang out from the cathedral we all turned to face them until eventually, silently, the crowd stood to mourn as one. United we stood and stared at Christchurch's most symbolic building, the cathedral.

I remember a cyclist stopping in the middle of the street. He took off his helmet and turned his bike around to face the cathedral. He stood in the middle of the street with his head bowed, oblivious to traffic, tears running down his face.

Others, it seemed, couldn't spare two minutes to pay their respects. Business types broke the silence around us by hurrying past yapping into their cellphones.

The tram, full of tourists, took pictures of us as the driver offered them his tour patter and rang his own bell.

I remember looking down at my hands folded in my lap and seeing them through unshed tears as I heard the bells of the cathedral toll with poignant slowness 29 times. Each one signalled a life cut short, a family somewhere mourning.

The silence between the chimes spoke volumes, deafening in its weight of grief.

From inside The Press on Tuesday nights the cathedral bellringers could be heard practising for hours. The sound drove me to distraction. "Give it a rest, how hard is it to ring a bell?" I'd joke with colleagues.

What I wouldn't give to hear that sound again.

At 12.51pm today I will stand in solidarity with family, friends and strangers to remember the members of our global community who lost their lives here a week ago today.

As we face the direction of the cathedral, the silence from our city's heart will be deafening but in my heart I will hear the bells ring out hundreds of times.

- The Press

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