Today was a day I have been approaching with mixed emotions. It was incredibly important that we marked the day, remembered those who lost their lives and their families, and acknowledged what has been an incredibly difficult year for us all. As a community we needed to confront all we had lost – people, homes, places, and security. Like many people though, I suspect, I saw today as a bit of a milestone – as David Shearer commented, like in any grieving process one year on you have marked all the significant days.
The last 24 hours have been pretty much wall-to-wall with events marking the day. Politicians from all Parties, the families of those lost, diplomats, and the community came together and remembered, commemorated, and acknowledged at incredibly moving ceremonies. There has been much good and sensitive media coverage of these.
Tonight my day finished with a much less formal event at a local school in Hornby. This was a community BBQ organised by the school (Branston Intermediate), a church (Hornby Presbyterian), and a local business (The Gough Group). The people of this suburb in the west had come out on a drizzly and overcast evening to be together and acknowledge what they had been through. Although the streets and houses in this suburb have got off lightly compared to their eastern neighbours, the people in these houses have certainly felt the stresses of the last 12 months. Many have lost their jobs, and of course like people all over the city they no longer trust the ground under them.
This event was much less sombre than the earlier events I went to. Several hundred people came out to remember but also to look forward to what comes next. There was music, a bouncy castle, egg and spoon and sack races, ice-creams and a BBQ cooked by 4 members of the Crusaders (Andy Ellis, Tom Taylor, Adam Whitelock and Patrick Osborne for the rugby fans out there). This was a community coming together to be together. This was a community doing what we do on a smaller scale in back yards all over the country during summer – having a bbq and a yarn when something happens. A turnout of this scale is not something I could have not imagined before February 22nd last year.
For me there is great hope in Christchurch, albeit a hope that is embedded in frustrations and tensions (but that is for another day). It is this community togetherness with new combinations of co-operation (the school, the church and the business), this empowered grassroots organisation, and this spirit that are the solid foundation that we will rebuild our broken city on.
Our job as politicians is to make sure these voices are heard and that this collective spirit is part of our new city.