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At 3.44pm today, a lone piper outside the Pike River Mine was to play a lament in a mournful tribute to the 29 dead.
One hundred and sixty relatives from New Zealand, Australia and Scotland were registered to make the pilgrimage to the remote mine site, exactly two years after a devastating explosion blew through the new underground mine, behind Atarau. Some families marked the anniversary quietly yesterday.
Ex-mine employees have also returned for the anniversary, which was not marked publicly in Greymouth. After spending two years in the glare of the international spotlight, the families specifically requested privacy today.
North Island piper John Martin wrote the lament "into the wee hours" after a late night phone call asking him to play.
"It's going to be one of the hardest piping jobs I've ever done," he said this morning.
Among the families attending from overseas today were the Campbells from Scotland and the Ufers from Australia.
With the media kept at bay, the families gathered firstly at the Atarau memorial, where 29 rocks and boulders represent each man lost in the mine.
Two years on their loved ones are still entombed, but families spokesman Bernie Monk said today he was grateful to the community, and other Pike River families, for their support.
"For a lot of people, today will be a turning point. We had a meal here on Saturday, and we are all at different stages, some are very angry.
"People from away have not had the support of the other families and community. We have been lucky to have that support," he said, adding that Strongman families had also helped.
- By Laura Mills of the Greymouth Star