Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Visit to the Memorial Service

Lucy and I attended most of the Memorial Service. Lucy was disappointed she didn't get to meet Prince William and that she wasn't on tv. Here were my impressions of the service, if you didn't get to make it along.
A lot of people went! For all the negative chat beforehand, when our bus pulled up, it was already three-quarters full and everyone was going to the service. I felt a little underdressed in my jeans and sweatshirt. Women were dressed in skirts or smart trousers and men were wearing shirts. This was not another concert in the park, it was a memorial service.
Once off the bus we walked into the park. As we approached the Park Terrace corner of North Hagley park, we heard a bellow, at first Lucy thought was an elephant but then over the loud speakers came "Toia Mai Te Waka". This song is about pulling your canoe up and is often used in powhiri to welcome guests. I found it surprisingly reassuring. The voices rang out so strongly of a people that in the past have lost many more whanau to the arrival of such things as infectious diseases and fought much bigger battles, than what our city was currently facing. They were still singing out strongly after all these years and Christchurch will too.
Before the service started, they showed the fourteen minute video of the severely damaged central city. Everyone was quiet. It was eerie to sit in such a large crowd in silence for that length of time. People got really irritable if anyone broke the silence, I still haven't quite figured out why.
The organisers had billed this event as a family event but unfortunately for us the video wasn't so great. Lucy hadn't seen too many images since walking out of the CBD on the 22nd. The video reminded her of that day. Her behaviour went downhill after that. She became belligerent and rude. Later we talked that perhaps it is better to cry than to misbehave. I guess the kids feel emotions and then don't know what to do with them.
One of the musical acts was Dave Dobbyn singing Loyal. Whatever you think of the song, I found it sad at the service. Only a few months ago we had Band Together in this same park. Everyone was laughing, talking, singing along and eating hot dogs. At the service, everyone just sat in silence until he finished playing. How much the mood of the city had changed in just five months.
There were many different religions represented in the service but there were more Christian traditions. After all it is New Zealand's background and often how we mourn. The Lord's prayer was said. I thought so many people all mumbling the Lord's Prayer in low voices, was a little like the hum of an approaching aftershock. Everyone gathered together made that sound.
We were under a clear blue sky and a very hot sun. I couldn't help but look around the crowd and wonder if everyone had sun cream on. In the wake of such a big change in the city, little things like sun cream can seem trivial but how much skin damage happened that day, that could lead to melanoma? Sometimes the world can seem a very cruel place.
Lucy and I left early and walked back into the Botanical Gardens. A couple asked if I could take their photo in front of some of the trees, just starting to show autumn colours. It was a lovely shot of a happy couple surrounded by the beauty of nature.
Many of the world's cities are near or on faultlines because they offer us so much - beautiful, rugged mountain scenery that I love and groovey stuff like gold. Apparently someone has worked out that on balance, the benefits for humans living near faultlines outweighs the nasty earthquakes. Sometimes it just takes awhile to see the beauty again.

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5 Favourite Sights Seen

  • 1996 Watching tropical lightning turn night to day, outside a little wooden church in a small village in Sabah.
  • 2004 Flying down the Rainbow Valley at 8000ft in a cessna on a clear blue day.
  • 2003 Seeing and hearing Michael Schmacher rolling out of the pit garage in his Ferrari in Hungary.
  • 2009 Chancing upon 100 or more dolphins just off the Kaikoura Coast swimming around, jumping out of the water, doing somersaults and generally having fun.
  • 2006 Finding a pool at the bottom of a waterfall in the bush at Kaikoura that was full of playing baby seals.