Now, on this day, unspoken memories silently linked parents, siblings, family members, friends, service personnel, Somerset Road residents and people from the local community who gathered for the ceremony. Even the blustery wind seemed to quieten down as the service began. Every contribution was moving and meaningful, beginning with a karanga.
The words of the reading 'They are gone', followed by Andy Eldred's poem 'What is life' and his song 'Carrying you, carrying me' acknowledged the sadness of loss yet spoke of hope, love and grace, all of which give strength and resilience to face the future.
Before unveiling the memorial, the mayor, John Booth, briefly addressed those gathered, expressing caring, community support for the families and all those so deeply affected by the tragedy. He expressed hope that this would now be a place of reflection, and a help in the healing process.
The names of the victims were read and a minute silence was observed. As if sensing the sobering and poignant nature of the occasion, a small flock of birds, I think maybe they were pigeons, suddenly flew from nowhere and disappeared into the heavens. Strains of a waiata softly permeated the air at the same time as the wind again intensified. Flowers brought by families were laid. People mingled, talked and moved forward to read the inscribed names.
From where I stood, I could see Wallowing Heights just along the road. That was the property where Chrisjan and Alexis jumped from the balloon basket. A couple of years ago their parents planted a tree there in their memory and as I walked back towards the car, its golden leaves seemed almost iridescent in the sunlight.
It was such a privilege to attend the unveiling and to connect with some of the people I had spoken to previously. It will make a fitting end to the book and I have come home to complete the task. Watch this space.
With Andy Eldred's permission, I am sharing the poem he read at the service.
Poem: What is life?
by Rev Andy Eldred
Is life a journey or a dream or a thought?
Is life joy and laughter, is it things we have bought?
Is life adventure, and the chances we take?
Is life a career and the things that we make?
Is life a risk, a dangerous dare?
Is life being angry and a time of despair?
Is life simply seconds and hours and days?
Is life the childlike games that we play?
Is life watching sunsets on romantic dates?
Is life watching children discover their fates?
Is life a sensation and meals that we share?
Is life all we love and all those who care?
Is life doing things that we dream we can do?
Is life flying high in a hot air balloon?
Is life a time of suffering, a time of grief and pain?
Is life little children dancing in the summer rain?
Is life standing in a sacred place remembering all that’s past?
Is life holding precious moments that we know can never last?
Is life just a moment, a moment that is blessed?
To those who have truly lived life, the answer to all is yes!