Small keepsakes mark quake searchers' great effort

By Anna Leask

China USAR members look at a book they dug up while assisting at the CTV building. Photo / Dean Purcell
China USAR members look at a book they dug up while assisting at the CTV building. Photo / Dean Purcell

Overseas rescue workers are heading home with their own little piece of Christchurch, and the thanks of the city.

Urban Search and Rescue (Usar) staff from Australia, Japan, the United States, England, Singapore, China and Taiwan converged on the city to assist with the massive rescue effort following the February 22 earthquake.

As the rescue effort turned to recovery, the teams began to downsize and head home, but not before they were presented with a memento of the Garden City.

The Rev Peter Collier from St John's Latimer Square was in the central city when the quake hit. He saw the rescue efforts and thought it was only right to acknowledge the rescue teams before they left Christchurch.

"At the end of the day, they risked their lives. This is us saying we know this is our city, not yours and you risked your lives for us," he said.

"We took on a representative role just to say thank you. We wanted to personally thank them."

In small ceremonies, each team was presented with a token of Christchurch.

The rescuers from England, who worked at the collapsed Pyne Gould Corporation building, were given a fridge magnet with a picture of the Christchurch Cathedral, a card with a picture of the city and a handwritten message.

The team from the US were presented with a cap with New Zealand written on it and a Kiwi key ring with a bottle opener. They also received a card and a book about the city.

"It was just a token gift. I said to the guys from England that it's a bit like the Ashes trophy - a small symbol that actually means a lot," Mr Collier said.

"At one level, it's their job and they want to do it. But at the end of the day, they are actually risking their lives for us and they have people at home worrying about them. So we just wanted to say thanks for that effort."

At each presentation, a member of the public attended. A man who lost his wife in the Pyne Gould Corporation building met the British rescuers and another who was parked on Manchester St when the quake hit and helped rescue people from the rubble met the teams from Queensland and Japan.

Mr Collier said the team from Taiwan left before he was able to organise a presentation, and the team from China was proving hard to get all in one place at the same time - but he wanted to extend thanks to them as well.

"We are actually trying to organise to get something for the New Zealand rescuers as well. And the 36 Christchurch fire officers that were on duty when the quake hit. Imagine being one of them, and just happening to be on duty at the time ... it would have been hell for them."

Mr Collier said all of the rescuers were "pretty moved" by the gesture. "We just can't thank them enough really."

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 28 Dec 2014 20:38:43 Processing Time: 571ms