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Goff - Christchurch earthquake memorial speech

Labour Leader

Friday, 18 March 2011

Goff- Christchurch earthquake memorial speech

At 12.51 pm on Tuesday the 22nd of February, Christchurch and the lives of its people changed forever.

So violent was the earthquake that struck this city that buildings crumbled, roads cracked, homes were broken and families were torn apart.

None of us who were here when that happened will ever forget that experience.

Seeing the trauma it caused. The anxiety as people frantically tried to phone their husbands, wives, parents, children and friends to see if they were alright.

Seeing the terrible damage done to this city. Buildings devastated and heritage lost. People killed, injured and trapped in collapsed buildings. The eerie silence of the central city whose time stopped at 12:51.

At the PGC building, I stood with those waiting with a mixture of hope and worry for their family members and colleagues trapped in the ruins to be rescued.

There were good news stories. One man whose fiancée was in the building had just received a text from her to say she was trapped but ok. They were married three days later. Another had heard nothing from his wife but I learned from him the next day that she had been rescued.

Not all were so lucky.

Today we grieve for those who have lost their loved ones – young and old, taken before their time. We grieve for the bereaved families here in New Zealand and for the families of international students who were guests in our country and who will never go home.

Today we also think of the people of Japan who endured the double tragedy of an earthquake and tsunami. The tragic losses they have suffered on a massive scale and the added worry of leakage of nuclear radiation.

For those in Christchurch, our hearts ache for families unable yet to say a final goodbye because their loved ones have not been identified.

This is a time to grieve but it is also a time to be grateful.

Grateful for courageous search and rescue workers who risked their lives to save others and for volunteers, community groups and service workers who worked tirelessly to help others.

Grateful for the renaissance of a strong Kiwi community spirit and commitment to help others.

Grateful for the love and support neighbours, family and friends have given each other and for how New Zealanders and countries and friends around the world have rallied to help and have been so generous.

It is also a time for hope.

Hope borne from the resilience and determination of Cantabrians to come through this.

Hope and confidence that this city and community will rise again.

That homes will be rebuilt, stronger and better than before.

That a new city centre, beautiful, people friendly, sustainable and high tech can be created.

We will have the vision and commitment to do that. And we pledge today that as New Zealanders, we will stand together beside our Christchurch brothers and sisters to help them through these difficulties times to better times ahead.


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