Two women couldn't contain their tears when they saw the entrance to the Pike River Mine opened for the first time in eight-and-a-half years today and men go inside.
Anna Osborne's husband Milton and Sonya Rockhouse's son Ben lie dead in the mine where an explosion in November 2010 took the lives of 29 men.
The two women joined family members of other victims to watch from outside as experts from the Pike River Recovery Agency completed breaching the 30 metre seal and successfully re-entered the mine's drift, or access tunnel, this morning, the first stage of a re-entry and recovery operation.
"Oh my god it was amazing," Ms Osborne told 1 NEWS near the mine afterwards.
"It was so emotional though, and we just couldn't contain our tears because I guess I wasn't prepared for just how emotional I was going to get today," she said.
"Seeing the concrete being pulled from the portal there, and these men going in, and knowing that they're doing that for us the families. All these guys going in have actually put their lives at risk, knowing it's safe to do so though, for us, the families."
Ms Rockhouse said the Pike River Recovery Agency experts who went into the drift today, "made it so easy too. It was so quick".
"We watched it and it was like, why has that taken eight-and a half years to do? But yeah, it was hard. I think we both cried a heck of a lot more than I thought we would," she said.
"It was very, very emotional. And actually seeing the men walking around in there with their lights on their helmets, for a split second you kind of think that's what our men were doing. And yeah, that was pretty sad."
Family members who were present for the re-entry today were give a piece of concrete from the mine seal to mark the occasion.
Bernie Monk whose son Michael died in the disaster pointed out it was a methane explosion, not a coal dust explosion, and said, "We'll still find bodies".
Dinghy Pattinson of the Pike Recovery Agency said today was an emotional day for the families.
"It's taken eight years and it's the start of a journey for us. The real work starts now," he said.