IT was 30 years ago today that Newcastle was famously shaken, but what stands out most decades later is how the city was stirred.
Contemplate how the languid days between Christmas and New Year generally pass. While bushfires have meant many are far from relaxed, it is generally not a time of great action.
The sudden 5.6 shake-up created a flashpoint between heritage and demolition as 12,000 buildings were damaged. Many could not be saved, it would eventuate. Physically, the earthquake immediately altered the fabric of the city and almost instantly necessitated one of the biggest changes to Newcastle's appearance during the intervening years.
None will remember the day more than those who saw loved ones for the last time before the disaster struck. More than a dozen deaths rippled out through the region by the time the dust settled after collapses at the Kent Hotel, a Beaumont Street chemist and the Workers Club.
Dulcie Bliim, Cec Abbott and Cyril McMahon did not return from Beaumont Street, where brick parapets dropped from above. Nine others did not emerge from the Newcastle Workers Club, while another death in hospital was ultimately attributed to the earthquake.
The $4 billion overall costs of the disaster do not factor in the pain and grief of those who loved them.
Equally excluded from that tally is the bravery of those who swung into action, and the luck that prevented a much higher toll on the city's population if the earthquake had arrived in a busier trading period. Just as ephemeral is any sense of what Newcastle would look like today had the disaster not so violently changed its course.
The valour of those at the scenes remains famous.
Certainly, most of those who lived through the earthquake would wish it had never arrived to leave such an extensive legacy. Yet it is undeniable that the city would be a different place if it had not.
Plenty of other changes have transformed Newcastle, including the departure of BHP. But none arrived with less warning and more destruction.
It is telling, then, that it is the bravery and commitment that stands tallest over the shadows of that dark day.
"We know now that at the scene of the wreckage of the workers club, people of all walks of life and all rescue services worked wholeheartedly and bravely to try and save survivors and locate bodies," coroner Kevin Waller wrote.
As a city, Newcastle will be forever thankful to those who pitched in. As a region, the Hunter must forever hold the memory close.
After 30 years, the Newcastle earthquake is part of the city's broader history rather than a piece within it. Into the future, we must remember that turning point. Without that memory, our story is incomplete.