Yesterday's Christchurch Memorial Service saw the end of an indescribably long three weeks, punctuated by unbelievable tragedy, devastation and destruction.
Many have remarked on the resilience of the human spirit and taken great comfort from the selfless humanitarian actions of others. At this very minute, that selflessness is in evidence still at the Japanese nuclear power plant as workers - some of whom have themselves described it as a suicide mission - continue to do all they can to prevent meltdown. It is truly incredible that in the space of just one week, Japan has borne earthquake, tsunami, nuclear accident all now interlaced with frozen snow and ice.
Our own earthquake, less than a month ago, was commemorated at Hagley Park yesterday. The video above was played during the service and provides a grim illustration of the extent of the damage, as well as the task set before those courageous enough to go straight into the debris to search for survivors. As the brave Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams were applauded on arrival at the service - and how fittingly so, being the heroes that they are - my thoughts were with their colleagues in Japan who, having worked their way through the crumbled ruins of Christchurch rescuing the living and retrieving the dead, now pick their way through the frozen carnage left by our world's most recent natural disaster.
Many have commented that watching the live footage of the tsunami was akin to watching a disaster movie, complete with amazing special effects - simply because that kind of devastation isn't something we recognise as being 'real life'. It is the stuff of imagination, not the grim reality of living nightmare. This was a real and ghastly event, sweeping away real people, real lives and real places.
The first nine weeks of 2011 have left millions of lives changed forever. My hope - and the hope of millions of other ordinary people like me - is that we can work together to help all those affected by these disasters and upheavals to rebuild and rediscover their lives. There have been thousands of heroic actions both here and in Japan and every single moment, every single action merits tribute.
We won't ever be in the same league as the USAR heroes, but we can all do something to help. As has been said: no kindness, however small, is wasted. And to all those in the services - USAR, firefighters, police offices, paramedics and many, many others - who selflessly put their own lives on the line, on hold or on the edge when disaster strikes, we owe you a debt of gratitude that we can only humbly acknowledge, never repay. Thank you.