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And while the scars and pain remain, yesterday’s national memorial service was one of hope, compassion and pride.
At 12.51pm on Tuesday, February 22, 2011, a magnitude-6.3 quake struck, killing 185 people, injuring hundreds and destroying buildings, houses and roads.
A decade on, survivors, families of the dead, Cantabrians and dignitaries gathered to pay tribute to the fallen and remember our “darkest day” at Oi Manawai, the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial.
Sir Bob Parker, who was the mayor of Christchurch when the quake struck, attended despite being in a hospital care facility after suffering a heart attack and major stroke late last year.
Mayor Lianne Dalziel read a message from Sir Bob, who led the city through the rubble into the beginning of the rebuild.
“I feel sad and humble, but also very proud to be sitting alongside you as we remember the horror of that dreadful day 10 years ago.
“It was a nightmare that was delivered on that mild, sunlit, late summer’s day — a moment that changed everything and everyone forever; a moment that caused a level of destruction and casualty that none of us will ever forget," Sir Bob wrote.
“We also say a heartfelt thank you to all of you who came from throughout New Zealand, from around the world, to help us at our time of need. We will never forget what you did for us.”
Ms Dalziel acknowledged the “courage and compassion” of rescuers and those who came to help after the disaster.
"We offer our thanks to those who came for us, to those who risked their lives for ours, and to those who supported us.
“Together we are stronger.”
A minute’s silence was observed from 12.51pm — the moment the quake struck and the names of the dead were read by first responders and members of the community.
Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy then delivered a message from the Queen.
“The loss of life was both sudden and tragic, profoundly affecting many people in New Zealand and around the world.
“While there are many sad memories of that terrible time there is also solace in remembering how your community rose to the challenge.
"You displayed great fortitude in the face of sudden overwhelming loss.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said while 10 years sounded like a long time, for most it felt like “just yesterday” that the city fell apart.
"It’s been a hugely difficult decade for this city ... but as we look ahead ... I see hope and energy and optimism, and I see Christchurch taking its rightful place among New Zealand’s best and brightest cities.”