As with birthdays no longer cherished by those of us with a Gold Card, the first anniversary of the February 22, 2011 earthquake was going to be one of mixed feelings. Certainly it was going to be poignant. I joined the estimated 20,000 assembled in North Hagley Park for the Memorial Service. Brilliantly presented, the event included the reading out names of 185 casualties resulting from the shocking event. At the conclusion 185 Monarch Butterflies were released. The beautiful winged creatures, their life cycle symbolising the demise and rebuild of Christchurch, seemed reluctant to take flight in their new freedom but I did see one fluttering amongst us spectators. Prior to the Memorial Service I joined many people in a memorial garden in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. I was amused to discover a tin Cathedral, the creation of a North Canterbury teenager. A performance of Japanese Taiko drummers was impressive. Here I first learned of the many nations associated with Christchurch because of seismic events. Through tragedy Christchurch has gained a lot in world friendship.
Japan experienced the greatest loss in human terms when 115 people perished with the Canterbury Television Building collapse and subsequent fire. Japanese casualties (many of the 115) were students of Kings English Language School. A survivor, teenager Mayumi Asakawa, returned to Christchurch for yesterday’s events and tolled the World Peace Bell (Gifted to Christchurch people from Japan’s World Peace Bell Association in 2004.)
While a language student, Mayumi tried to live like a Kiwi kid. This included taking her cut lunch to the language school. But on February 22 last year she didn’t bring her lunch. Just minutes before the earthquake at 12.51pm, Mayumi left the third floor of the CTV building to buy her lunch. For her it was a lucky event. But a sad one owing to the loss of many classmates.