Powerful photo of little girl breaks hearts around the world

It is the heartwarming photo of a little girl blowing bubbles with her brothers and sisters on a riverbed — but the story behind the image is breaking hearts around the world.

Their brother, little Baxtor Gowland, was the youngest victim of the the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, and died in his sleep after being hit by falling masonry. 

Anahera, 8, Tessa, 7, Britta, 3, and Lennox, 2, never got to meet Baxtor — but he still holds a special place in their hearts.

At a memorial service held in Christchurch to mark 10 years since the quakes, the children planted a tree and blew bubbles along the Avon River to commemorate not only their older brother, but all the victims of the devastating earthquake.

A heartwarming photo has emerged of four siblings paying tribute to their brother who was killed in the Christchurch earthquake

A heartwarming photo has emerged of four siblings paying tribute to their brother who was killed in the Christchurch earthquake

Little Baxtor Rowland died in his sleep when he was hit by falling masonry

Little Baxtor Rowland died in his sleep when he was hit by falling masonry

Hundreds of people turned out to pay tribute to all those who lost their lives at a memorial service 10 years on from the disaster

Hundreds of people turned out to pay tribute to all those who lost their lives at a memorial service 10 years on from the disaster

‘We have other anniversaries we celebrate for Baxtor, but obviously this one is a day to remember him and also the other people who passed away,’ his mother, Breanna Gowland told Stuff.co.nz.

The natural disaster claimed the lives of 185 people, left an estimated 2,000 with injuries, and destroyed homes and other buildings throughout the country’s second largest city, which continues to rebuild from the magnitude 6.3 quake.

Seconds after the Christchurch earthquake, this picture captured the scene of widespread devastation from afar

Seconds after the Christchurch earthquake, this picture captured the scene of widespread devastation from afar

Hundreds of people attended the outdoor service to pay tribute to the victims.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was important to remember that 87 of the victims were foreigners and many of their families couldn’t be there because of coronavirus travel restrictions.

Before and after photos show how Christchurch is still rebuilding 10 years on from the quake

Before and after photos show how Christchurch is still rebuilding 10 years on from the quake 

‘Our flags fly at half-mast for them today too,’  she said.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel talked about the 28 Japanese citizens who died, the largest number of victims from any country outside of New Zealand.

‘I especially wanted to mention all the Japanese family members who I last year met in Japan and who so wanted to be here,’ she said. ‘We are forever connected by this tragedy and we do not forget you even when we are apart. You are with us in spirit.’ 

Eighteen people died in the PGG Building, which collapsed moments after the quake. The site of the building is now empty 10 years on

Eighteen people died in the PGG Building, which collapsed moments after the quake. The site of the building is now empty 10 years on

Another person who spoke at the service was Maan Alkaisi, a university professor who has spent years trying to get authorities to press criminal charges against those who designed the CTV building which collapsed during the quake, killing 115 people including his wife, Maysoon Abbas.

A review after the quake found the building’s design was flawed and it should never have been approved.

The iconic Time Ball Station was semi-destroyed, but was rebuilt and reopened in 2018

The iconic Time Ball Station was semi-destroyed, but was rebuilt and reopened in 2018

‘Today commemorates 10 years of injustice and mistreatment,’ Alkaisi said. ‘Today reminds us of our responsibility to make sure we learn from this tragic experience and honor those lovely people we lost by ensuring their dreams are kept alive, by ensuring this will not happen again.’

The memorial service was held on the banks of the Avon River, and people observed a moment´s silence at 12:51 p.m., the moment the quake struck in 2011. Emergency service workers and others took turns reading out the names of each of the victims.

The magnitude 6.3 earthquake caused widespread destruction across the city. This photo shows Manchester street following the quake, and the same area nearly 10 years later

The magnitude 6.3 earthquake caused widespread destruction across the city. This photo shows Manchester street following the quake, and the same area nearly 10 years later

Ardern said the quake had affected people in many ways, and daily reminders including aftershocks and the fractured landscape had made the recovery harder.

‘Ten years on there will be people still living their daily lives with the long shadow of that day,’ she said.

‘But as we look ahead to the coming decade, I see hope and energy and optimism,’ she said. ‘And I see Christchurch taking its rightful place amongst New Zealand´s best and brightest cities.’

A row of shops and offices was left totally open after the front wall ripped away

A row of shops and offices was left totally open after the front wall ripped away

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