Today it was an honour to go to the Dawn Service at Ohinemutu, Rotorua for the ANZAC Parade. It was cold and dark when my friend, Anna picked me up at 5.35 am to drive down to the lake front where Ohinemutu stands on the lake sure. Parking on the grass, it looked like a huge concert was about to take place. I loved the feeling of our community coming together to honour those who’d gone before us. Getting out of the car, we walked down one of the tiny, narrow streets to the church, following hundreds of others. Total silence, except for the crunch of feet on gravel and stone, a few whispers here and there, smiles of greeting, even though it was such a serious occasion.
The cold breeze off the lake, didn’t both most. All dressed up, comfy and warm, Anna and I followed one group of people around the right side of the church where we ended up standing in front of a large screen to watch the live service. Where were the military personnel? They were all in the War Cemetery where our hero’s are honoured. This part of the cemetery was to the left of the big screen, through an archway, on land pointing out towards the lake. I must admit never noticing this area before. I know I will return soon, to see a part of Ohinemutu I don’t recall, though I am sure I’ve visited before.
The voice of Reverend Thomas Poata taking the service in Te Reo Maori while the dawn broke on the right, a light slowly and steadily getting brighter, while on the left it was still dark, the moon hanging in the sky watching over us. The guest speaker was Flight Lt Angela Swan-Cronin, the first Maori woman to attain her wings and fly for the New Zealand Airforce. She was also the first female guest speaker invited to speak at the dawn service, inspiring young women of the community, showing them they can do this too, if they wish. Hard work and twelve years service is an incredible journey for anyone, especially when helping in conflicts around the world.
The laying of the wreaths at the cemetery – with a slightly funny episode when various guests didn’t seem to realise it was time to walk to the memorial. Though a solemn occasion, and a cold morning, the laughter was great, the silence amazing, the emotions true to form, as we all remembered our past heroes, helping us have a good future. The wreaths laid, the four young cadets guarding the memorial, as still as stone. They did a wonderful job, their families must be very proud of them at this time. I know I would be.
It was time for the parade to walk to the Marae, to be dismissed, to talk with the public and have a hot drink…with a touch of rum.
The rest of the cadets parted the crowds, the parade left with the Rotorua Pipe Band setting the tone and pace. It was hauntingly beautiful to hear and watch the veterans and all the armed forces march past. Anna and I joined in, arm in arm, walking behind the last, with many others from the community. By now the sky had lightened considerably, the sun just waiting to emerge over the crater edge and shine down on those of us remembering those gone before.
Anna and I tried the coffee, it seemed rum wasn’t to our taste. I also spoke to Ron, my first neighbour from when we moved to Rotorua. He was one of the flag bearers at the civil service and parade which was to take place in a few hours time.
We left the marae at close to 7 am to return to our homes. The sun was now peeking over the edge halfway, as we climbed up the slope from Ohinemutu, to the bottom of hospital hill. We left in the car filled with emotions, knowing we lived in a wonderful community with a living spirit and an honoured past.