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9/11 Memorial Service, Christchurch September 11, 2010

9/11 Memorial Service, Christchurch September 11, 2010

9/11 Memorial Service, Christchurch September 11, 2010. Photo: Department of State.

9/11 Memorial Service, Christchurch September 11, 2010. Photo: Department of State.

Paul Fiffick - Acting Public Affairs Officer.

Let me begin by conveying best greetings from Ambassador David Huebner. He really wanted to be here today but, unfortunately, is out of the country. Thank you all for being here.

In Maoridom, I understand that there is a saying: He tangata, he tangata, he tangata. It is the people, the people, the people.

Never is that more true than when the unexpected hits. Never is that more true than in times of crisis; in times of uncertainty.

A week ago, when the unexpected came to Canterbury, what mattered-- first and foremost--was the people.

Within minutes of those first rumblings, and well before the sun dawned here, our civilian and military colleagues in Hawaii, Washington and Bangkok started to look for ways to help.

We simply set about doing what people do when their friends are in trouble: we started checking in and trying to work out if there was anything we could do to help.

Within hours the Ambassador, and other staff at the Embassy, had made contact with central and local government to see if there was anything the U.S could usefully provide in the immediate aftermath of the quake. We asked Civil Defence to let us know if they needed extra resources. We contacted 8,000 American citizens, to make sure they knew what to do and where to get help if they needed it. We relayed Civil Defence messages. We checked in with Canterbury and Lincoln Universities and emailed some of our student friends. We were in communication with the Antarctic program, the Art Gallery and other people we know throughout the region. We sent texts to make sure people were okay.

It is a very human urge, to do what you can to help.

In a similar way, at what was around 1am New Zealand time nine years ago, the unexpected and devastating came to New York. Back then, it was the people of New Zealand who were thinking of the people of New York. Back then, confronted by the enormity of it all, it was New Zealanders looking for a way to help. They wanted to do something.  By the time my colleagues reached the office, it was still dark, but already there were flowers at the front and back gates. And those flowers, they kept coming for days. There were so many, that even when we had given them to every hospice and hospital in the region, we had some left over.

We have not forgotten those flowers.

Nor can I believe, really, that we are sitting here in Christchurch surrounded by all this destruction and all the heartache of the last week. As I look out at the firefigthers here, I am so grateful for their presence. I know they must be exhausted; Their presence here reminds me of the firefighters in New York City in the wake of 9/11.

In the days following that tragedy on 9/11, I was sent to assist with the U.S. Government efforts to assist the people of New York City.  My role was to transport the firefighters who had been working tirelessly from the minute the first plane struck the World Trade Center back to their firehouses.  These men, who had been working for 48+ hours straight, covered in dirt and debris, so tired they could barely walk, were the most giving people I have encounted.  When we arrived at their firehouse, their first thoughts were not of getting themselves cleaned-up, or their families, it was ensuring I was fed and taken care of.  I have never been so humbled.  It is that spirit of selflessness that binds our two countries, and that spirit is clearly evident in the people of Christchurch.

Kia Kaha. 

Related: Ambassador Huebner's Blog - 'Kia Kaha Canterbury'

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