A memorial service will be held in Hagley Park today to pay tribute to victims of the February quake. Events begin at 10:30am, with the service starting at 12:30, and two minutes silence at 12.51pm. TVNZ has a good page on practical details here.
I think it’s fair to say that the idea of the service has strongly polarised opinion. Those reacting negatively see it as a glorified photo-op for John Key, being held far too soon, on a schedule set by the visit of Prince William. The following opinion piece by Vicki Anderson in The Press has created a bit of a sensation:
Christchurch is grumpy
People in Christchurch seem to be experiencing a mass episode of PMT (post magnitude tension). Mind you, there’s a lot to be tense about. Homes lost, jobs lost, everywhere you look life is tough. No to the Rugby World Cup. Yes to a grandiose memorial service happening too soon. Nuclear terror in Japan. Moon man predictions. My head hurts.
The thing that makes me feel particularly upset is the national memorial service in Hagley Park on Friday. Just who is this memorial service for? It’s not for Christchurch. It’s not for the families who lost loved ones in the February 22 quake.
It’s a grandiose, empty gesture starring so-called V.I.Ps – Prince William, Prime Minister John Key, Aussie PM Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott and presumably other assorted boring people in suits. …
Some say it is just too soon for a memorial service and I agree. Life is still too raw here for us to have a memorial. With a memorial comes some form of closure – we’re just not in that place yet. To the rest of New Zealand and visiting dignitaries the earthquake might be old news but it’s not to us, the ones living through it. …
Looking on the bright side I guess the homeless, sorry, displaced, will be able to go to Hagley Park to finally get to use a toilet. Some affected colonials might even get a glimpse of Prince William’s rapidly decreasing hairline. …
A more fitting service for Cantabrians would be held on February 22, 2012. When we have had the time and opportunity to get over current hurdles.
These very important people visiting Christchurch to gawk at our damage would be better served spending their time trying to get to the bottom of how it can be that some people here have had their buildings, their livelihoods, their wordly valuables demolished without any notice or opportunity to salvage anything of their former lives.
On Friday the two minutes of silence at 12.51pm will give news organisations – this memorial requires media accreditation – the perfect opportunity to zoom the lens in on the grief stricken. Some untalented people will surely be inspired to create a tribute song, using the suitably traumatic footage of the day the nation stood still, again. Endless repeats of crumbled buildings will adorn the 6pm news. …
It’s like Band Together – Concert for Canterbury, but this is the memorial version. This is Wail Together – Concert for Elsewhere.
A strict alcohol ban will be in place for the event, and there will be a large number of police officers and security guards on site.
Does this sound like a memorial to you?
Of course not everyone agrees. One of the comments in response to the above piece:
[…] you are entitled to your opinion, really you are. But as someone who lost family, who lost friends… I need this memorial. I need this day off to say goodbye properly – because I passed up funerals to stay at work and support my business, who were paying out enough in bereavement leave. So I will be in Hagley Park on Friday, with my head held high, remembering what we’ve lost, and looking to the future
Both negative and positive opinions are likely widely held:
3 News spoke to several Christchurch residents who said Friday is too soon for a memorial. They say there are still funerals which need to take place and bodies which haven’t been identified. They say they’d be more comfortable having a memorial in a few weeks – even months.
“For many people there is a great need to grieve. There is a great need to share the load that they are carrying right now, so you have to weigh all of that up,” says Mr Parker. “It could be up to two years before there is final identification.” Those who aren’t ready to grieve are being asked to respect those who are, and are being assured that this won’t be the only memorial.
While tending myself to share the views of Vicki Anderson, this is surely time to acknowledge our diversity, and that this event will mean very different things to different people. If it can help some in Christchurch come to terms with loss and grief, then well and good, it will have served some useful function. Kia kaha Canterbury.