One year ago I was a cub reporter, 11 days into the job, and the first at the Waitangirua siege.
Fresh out of journalism school, I was sent to Porirua for eight weeks, and, in less than a fortnight, I was in the thick of one of the year’s biggest stories.
Still here one year on, I revisited some of the people I met during the siege and it was like meeting old friends.
* Tales from the front line
* Sun sets on armed stand
* Te Kira family apologise for siege
Greeting Pania Houkamau-Ngaheu was like coming home. A long hug, not a handshake, started our second interview.
A year ago, at her marae, she told me I looked tired. The previous day I had lasted nearly 13 hours within the Kokiri Cres cordon and I was spent and sad.
I was there when Paul Basham announced Pita Te Kira was dead. I saw the people, who had been driven from their homes, mourn him.
I saw tears from police officer Mike Tahere.
On Friday, within the cordon, Matua Pusa Finau let me into his house to charge my phone and for 8 hours I based myself in his living room. His wife made me lunch and, as the cold crept in, his daughter gave me a sweatshirt.
She boosted me over a fence to get closer to the house. I had given up smoking a year previously but we shared a cigarette in the dark.
It wasn’t unusual. The people welcomed us all in. A Dominion Post photographer was granted full access to a private home and only told to lock the door as he left.
On the Sunday, two days after he made his stand, I saw Pita’s body being taken from the house. It seemed such a small body to have caused such big trouble.
One year ago, I fell in love with Porirua City. For its people and the way they took me in and let me tell their stories of the siege.
One year on, I just hope I told them well.
He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.
What is the most important thing in the world? It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.