Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What can one say?

When a major tragedy happens, particularly when it’s to people one doesn’t know, and in places one isn’t, it’s difficult to know what to say. Yet the tragedy of the Pike River Mine disaster, and the 29 lives lost, deserves some sort of acknowledgement.

When it’s a national tragedy, as this is, the leader of the country attempts to speak for us all. In that spirit, I’m republishing the remarks made by Prime Minister John Key (as delivered):

This afternoon New Zealand has been devastated by the news we have all been dreading. A second explosion at the Pike River Mine confirms our very worst fears. The 29 men, whose names and faces we have all come to know, will never walk amongst us again.

This is a national tragedy: A tragedy for the men's families, for their workmates and friends, for their community and our nation. New Zealand is a small country, a country where we are our all our brother’s keeper. So to lose this many brothers at once strikes an agonising blow.

Today, all New Zealanders grieve for these men. We are a nation in mourning. Where this morning we held on to hope, we must now make way for sorrow.

Our heartfelt sympathies go out to the families of those 29 brave men. After days of waiting, of both preparing for the worst and hoping for the best, they have been delivered the cruellest of news.

So to all those who have lost a loved one in the Pike River mine let me say this: New Zealand stands shoulder to shoulder with you. Though we cannot possibly feel this pain as you do, we have you in our hearts and our thoughts. Like you, we’d all longed for that miracle to occur, that your men would be returned home to you.

Tonight, on behalf of the people of New Zealand, we send our sympathies to the children who have lost their fathers, to the parents who have lost sons, to the wives who have lost their husbands, to the girlfriends who have lost their partners, to the siblings who have lost their brothers.

This is a tragedy for the communities of Greymouth and its surrounding areas. This loss will be felt in every home. They leave behind them a hollow space that will not be readily filled.

We must also acknowledge that Australia, South Africa and the United Kingdom have lost men in this tragedy as well.

Tomorrow, I will travel to Greymouth to express my condolences to the families and to express our thanks to all those who have worked so hard on the attempted rescue of these men. From the moment of the first explosion, they have spent every waking hour tirelessly working, searching for a way to bring these men home alive. That was not to be. But their enormous effort can not go unmarked.

Tomorrow in Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English will move a motion in my absence, providing all political parties an opportunity to express their sympathy. Then as a mark of respect to the victims and their families, it is the Government's intention to lift the House.

I have also directed that tomorrow all flags on Government buildings will fly at half-mast.

Questions must now be asked and answered about how such a tragedy was able to occur and how we can prevent another happening in the future. It is my expectation that Cabinet will confirm the details of a Commission of Inquiry at its next meeting on Monday, along with any other inquiries that may be deemed to be appropriate.

At this time of national pain, let us not lose sight of what truly makes New Zealand great. We are a tough and resilient little country. We care deeply about our fellow countrymen and women. We are a series of communities knitted together by a set of values and principles that have guided us together through good times and bad.

It is this spirit that will see us through.

The montage of the 29 miners, above, is a screen grab from the font page of the New Zealand Herald website. I don’t normally lift things from websites, but I felt it was important to memorialise the lost. Video of the Prime Minister’s speech is available on the Herald’s site, and the speech and press conference afterward is also available on TVNZ’s One News site.

1 comment:

Roger Owen Green said...

I heard the news and immediately thought of you and Nik, the only people I "know" in NZ.

Very sad.