Families reflect on loss

6:25 pm on 22 February 2012

Families bereaved in last year's earthquake have attended services in Christchurch to reflect and remember those who lost their lives.

Maan Alkaisi, who lost his wife of 35 years, was planning to attend the memorial service at Latimer Square where a year ago he waited, desperate for news.

His wife, Maysoon Abbas, was a doctor at the medical centre in the CTV building which collapsed in the 6.3-magnitude quake that struck on 22 February 2011.

The couple met as students, travelled the world and raised three daughters together.

"I feel very sad," Professor Alkaisi said. "You feel very disappointed that something like this happened to you after all these years of hard work, and something out of your control will just come and destroy all your life, destroy all your dreams and plans."

Brian Kennedy's wife, Faye, the practice manager at the medical centre, also died in the building.

Mr Kennedy says initially adrenalin kept him going but since then it's been tough. "I have good days and I have absolutely terrible days," he says.

It has been a difficult year too for Robert Gilbert, whose son Jaime was killed when a central city bar collapsed around him.

Mr Gilbert learned the news from his sister. "I was alone in my car with the water up around the windows when she told me over the phone. It was just the most hideous, hideous thing."

Robert Gilbert says Christchurch is still home but it is too soon for him to think about the city's recovery.

"I think I'll let others look forward to the bright future of Christchurch and its rebuild and those sorts of things.

"For me, I think the loss is still pretty raw. I still miss my son so much."

Tom Brittenden was working in Cashel Mall at the time of the quake and tried to help an injured person, who later died.

"So that was probably the worst part of the whole thing - that you thought you'd helped someone and you couldn't, they were too far gone."

Grateful to have survived

Some of the memories evoked by the anniversary are of survival.

Tracy Stanners was trapped in the PGC building for six hours, crouching beneath a cafeteria table with four others.

She doesn't know how she got out alive and says that while she is not the most Christian of people she feels God was with them that day.

Another who considers himself lucky is Ken Hird, who broke his neck after riding his bike into a hole on New Brighton Road.

He owes his life to passers-by who gave him medical attention. He spent three months in Burwood Hospital relearning to do everything for himself.