When the tower of Christchurch Cathedral fell in Tuesday's massive earthquake, the people of Canterbury lost one of the enduring symbols of our province. It's a point of reference that we need desperately in a city that has become almost unrecognisable.
After the September 4 earthquake, we talked about the Cathedral standing strong and resolute, a symbol of resilience in the heart of Canterbury. Now that heart is broken.
The most important thing for us right now is to recover the people who are still buried under the rubble and return them to their loved ones. A building is just so much stone and mortar. It can be rebuilt. But you can't ever replace a human life.
After the September quake, there was a pervasive sense of hope. Now we're facing a crisis of a different magnitude altogether. People are waiting with growing despair for news of the missing. Many have gathered their families up and left. Anxiety is running high and there are dark days ahead.
But often in the worst of times you see the best of people. There's an unassuming sort of heroism at work. Sam Johnson's 10,000-strong student volunteer army, and many others, have turned up to dig homes out of the silt. People are ferrying food and water to the elderly and housebound. Local community networks are starting to kick in and people are quietly getting on with the business of looking after each other.
Rebuilding communities and helping people facing unbearable loss is no soft job. But the Canterbury spirit is about struggling to keep things ordinary in the most extraordinary of times.
With the help of the rest of New Zealand, we will get through this.