The city that shook and crumbled at 12.51pm on February 22,
2011 came to a respectful standstill today as the 185
Canterbury earthquake victims were remembered.
Two years on, the grief and pain remains as heartbreaking as
ever for those left behind.
Under grey skies at a civic memorial service in Latimer
Square, used as a makeshift triage centre during New
Zealand's worst natural disaster, Prime Minister John Key
said February 22 will always be a poignant day.
Addressing grieving families, who leant on each other for
warmth and strength, he said: "I know this is a difficult day
for you. Your grief is still raw and only time can help to
numb the pain of your loss. This city and this country
continue to feel for you."
During the one minute's silence at 12.51pm, Red Cross
volunteers quietly circulated the 1000-strong crowd to hand
out timely tissues for those reduced to tears in the
The New Zealand flag fluttered at half-mast as Christchurch
mayor Bob Parker spoke of the great sense of loss that will
"live with us forever".
Workplaces, schools and households all paused to pay their
respects in their own ways.
With roadworks rife in the rebuilding city, many streets were
lined today with rows of orange traffic cones filled with
colourful flower bouquets.
In another touchingly inventive way of paying respects to the
fallen and injured, and to reflect on the tumultuous last two
years, hundreds of flowers were tossed into city waterways as
part of the River of Flowers event.
While the main public service reflected on what has happened
and paid tribute to the fallen, it also looked to the future.
The anniversary was a chance to look forward and also reflect
on how far the city has come, Mr Key said.
He paid tribute to the "strength and resolve of Cantabrians"
who have lost homes and businesses and suffered disruption
"In the face of it you've shown great heart and resilience.
You have prevailed."
He said Christchurch will become one of the best and most
liveable cities in the world.
Dean O'Connell, 43, took his 4-year old son Rohan to the
"I thought it would be good for him. It's part of his life,"
said the volunteer firefighter, who spent February 23, 2011
working in Latimer Square.
Earthquakes often featured in games his son played with pals.
"They'll be running around and there'll be quakes and
rumbles. It's all part of their lives."
Karen Van Der Velden, 44, and her two daughters Xica, 15, and
Keeley, 16, got there early to stand alongside their fellow
Cantabrians who have been through so much over the last two
"We're just showing we care," said Mrs Van Der Velden.
Beckie Young, 38, said everyone in Christchurch had been
affected by the quakes, and today was a chance to "stand
together as a city".
After the service, many made the 100-metre pilgrimage to the
empty concrete site of the CTV Building collapse, which was
opened up for the day.
Crowds gathered in tearful, hugging groups to pay their
respects to the 115 people who died in the six-storey
building's collapse and subsequent fire.
The mourners - many from overseas who came to remember the
dozens of victims from the King's Education School for
English Language - left flowers, hand-written notes and
"It'll never stop hurting," said one woman, before she turned
away, sobbing into her partner's shoulder.