Jennifer Middendorf from CEISMIC attended the River of Flowers memorial event in Deans Bush yesterday. She reflects here on the day.
For four years now I’ve been coming here on this day, at this time, to sit beside the banks of the Avon River and mark the anniversary of the 22 February earthquake. I’m starting to recognise familiar faces – we were here together last year, and the year before, and we’re back again this year despite the drizzle.
The regulars know the routine: there’s a Tree of Hope to tie your messages to (the first year they were written on luggage tags, this year we’ve upgraded to professionally produced postcards), grab a flower from the pile if you haven’t brought your own, then sit and think, or chat, or watch the ducks go by, until the organiser announces it’s 12:51 and we all fall silent. Two minutes to remember, to pray if you’re so inclined, to contemplate, and with our silence to show respect for those who lost their lives.
Two minutes seems too short, and when the piper begins to play Amazing Grace it takes a while before anyone moves. Slowly, in ones and twos, we move to the river, still silent, and drop our flowers in, watching them drift downstream towards the city.
As always, I’m surprised at the depth of emotion I feel in that moment. There’s something very powerful, yet comforting, about coming together in this way to remember and to acknowledge our shared grief for all we’ve lost: loved ones, homes, livelihoods, health, or just the familiar places and routines of a city we loved.
And as I think about that shared remembrance, I feel proud to be part of the CEISMIC team. Our city is changing rapidly as the rebuild continues, but it is important to help ensure that Christchurch as it was is never forgotten, that future generations will know what happened here, and that the rest of New Zealand will understand our loss. And perhaps other communities will learn from our experiences and be better prepared for their own disasters.
Visit our Contribute page to share your own reflections on the anniversary: How did you spend the day? How do you feel about this sort of ‘shared remembrance’?