Thursday, April 10, 2008

Events 40 years ago

It is amazing how certain events in one's life are etched indelibly. Today, 40 years ago one such event occurred in the NZ psyche.

On this morning so long ago, the Rattler carrying my mother arrived late in Wellington around 0800. it had been by all counts an extremely rough train trip from Orklund, she was due there for the solemn business of attending to her stepfather's funeral in later days. She knew the windy city well for she was born there and had seen many a southerly ripping through Island Bay.

Unbeknown to those arriving on that so typical Wellington day, another tragedy was unfolding. As they stepped off the train, which apparently was late because of the weather, it was noticed a couple of platforms over that sombre actions were taking place. According to my mother, on that platform was a temporary morgue for those who did not make it to shore from the Wahine disaster unfolding in the harbour that very morning.

The events of the disaster I remember well, for as an almost 14 year old just beginning to take notice of events outside home life, it was big news in the ensuing weeks. I was even allowed to read the sombre articles in the NZ Herald and the Auckland Star - not a typical luxury for a young teen in those days - bad newspaper news was readily censored with scissors in our home. Things changed when I became a Herald boy.

Another memory I have from earlier that year and I still have the photos to prove it somewhere, is that I travelled both ways across the Cook Strait on a school trip to the Mainland in late January on the Wahine. At that time I thought it was a fine strong ship, until I saw those horrific pictures a little over two months later. In later working life, that single event has always enforced the respect for the sea that it commands.

Yes, there will be many today who have differing memories of that tragedy. It will never go away and while personally I did not know anyone who was on that fateful voyage, my thoughts today go to those who did lose loved ones.

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