Vigil at Cathedral

Londoners Gather to remember Quake

Victims of Christchurch

By Tom Aitken in London
March 4, 2011
The organisers at the Catholic Cathedral in Westminster had set up what they thought would be a small affair to commemorate the NZ quake victims
In the event 5000 people turned up!

Only 1500 or so got into the Cathedral; the rest of us stood on the piazza outside.

In my innocence I thought when I arrived it was odd that the organisers hadn’t opened the doors yet.

Then I heard people in the crowd phoning their parents in NZ to wish them good morning and explaining that the cathedral only held 1500.

There was a scattering of all ages in the crowd (although I suspect I may have been one of the real oldies). But overwhelmingly the crowd was made up of people in their twenties and thirties.

Just by me there was a girl of maybe two, being held up by her mother to see over the heads of the crowd.

When the two-minute silence took place she remained perfectly silent herself. She gazed in concentrated puzzlement at 3000-plus people standing still and silent — while, in the lights at the end of the piazza, traffic rumbled by on Victoria Street.

She stirred just once, when she dropped the Order of Service she was clutching. A chap behind her handed it back and she was fine.

The service consisted of prayers read by cathedral clergy, several readings from citizens of Christchurch (the woman reading some of these had difficulty mastering her emotion, a difficultly that was widely shared).

And there was a lengthy, very thoughtful offering from Ritchie McCaw. Having watched him taking opposing rugby teams apart often enough, I found it rather surprising.

The NZ High Commissioner did a good job with ‘For every thing
there is a season  — after a panicky moment when he announced he would be reading from the ‘Book of Ecclastices’ (sic).

A Maori choir gave us ‘How Great Thou Art’ and Hayley Westenra led us in ‘God of Nations. The service lasted 50 minutes. It was, I need hardly add, very stirring.

And what looked to be a great deal of money was collected for relief efforts. When I dropped my contribution into the bucket, the 30-year-old collector said ‘Thanks, mate.’

I see that some NZ media have referred to ‘people standing in the freezing
cold.’

Oddly enough, in that crowd I actually thought how comfortably warm it was. When I walked back along Victoria Street to the tube, I discovered that it was indeed freezing.

(The photograph above gives some idea of the scene, but when it was taken
people were obviously still able to get inside. After the doors were shut,
the large piazza was soon chocka)

 

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