Forty-two years ago today, 257 people lost their lives when Air New Zealand Flight TE901 crashed into Mt Erebus in Antarctica. Dan Moloney lost his father Nick, a crew Flight Engineer, that day. He reflects on the tragedy and why he believes the planned memorial in Auckland's Parnell – occupied by protestors since February - should go ahead.
We acknowledge that those that never returned are still with us today in spirit and soul and they live on through their children and families.
The scale of the disaster was massive and had a huge impact on the lives of families and friends who lost their loved ones here in New Zealand and around the world.
The memorial planned at Dove-Myer Robinson Park / Taurarua in a 'jewel space' away from the hustle of Parnell has been designed to reflect the immense size and impact of this disaster and the resulting effect on the lives of all those involved. It provides an opportunity to extend an understanding of the immensity of grief that flows through a society when tragedy of such scale and abrupt loss occurs. A place for all to visit, reminisce, reflect and focus on the great loss, deep emotions tempered by time and the pain and anger of those affected. It is a place where all visitors are welcome to contemplate their own personal losses and experiences of adversity.
The memorial overlooks Mechanics Bay which was the centre of international aviation for New Zealand until the 1950s with the first flying boats connecting New Zealand with the rest of the world in the 1930s through TEAL (Tasman Empire Airways Limited), now Air New Zealand.
It is a spiritual place in which our joy and grief will meet in the memory of those we love, and it will honour the gratitude to those that risked their lives and made sacrifices in the aftermath.
Approaching the memorial on the asphalt path, it reminds us of the great scar that the tragedy left on Mount Erebus and the people of New Zealand. The memorial draws you into the walkway that leads out to the horizon, shared sea and sky, a journey of adventurous spirit that everyone had gone on. We are cloaked by the giant Pohutukawa tree representing the spirit of care, guardianship, and love that the memories of those lost are held within and it allows us to acknowledge the grief and pain of our loss.
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The snow drift wall depicts what the passengers on this adventure were going to see and the individual snowflakes are unique to each life lost. The changing filtered light flowing through these snowflakes reminds us of the souls lost and throws reflections on the path below, creating a sense of movement, like snow passing over the mountain. The intimate and enclosed inner space or sanctuary between the snow drift wall and the ice wall is symbolic in that it evokes an emptiness left behind by those that lost their lives. The walls mitigate the sounds from nearby and the road, rail, port and heliport beyond.
At the end of the walkway, we are reminded of the outward journey into worlds and places unknown to those of us left behind and the gateway to eternity. The sounds of Antarctica offer a unique experience and sensory richness and we stop to remember the past, reflect on the present and contemplate the future. We acknowledge the lands apart that we share under the same sky and the spiritual connection of the older Mt. Erebus with the younger Rangitoto.
As we turn and begin the inward journey back along the ice wall commemorating the lives of all those tragically lost, we stop to touch and feel the names of our loved ones and place mementos and flowers. All suffered the same fate, and it did not matter what role they played, they all had loved ones waiting for them to return. This memorial is dedicated to them, their families, friends and it belongs to the people of New Zealand and worldwide.
Accessible water not only provides spiritual cleansing but washes away the hurt, anger and lost opportunity that we have felt over the years. As we withdraw from the memorial back to the Rose Gardens we are reminded of what a fitting place this is for a reunion for those had they returned.
• Dan Moloney is an Erebus family representative on the Design Selection Judging Panel for the memorial