Trauma, grief and mourning in Christchurch after deadly mosque shootings

by - 3 min read

Trauma, grief and mourning in Christchurch after deadly mosque shootings

by - 3 min read


Along the perimeter of Hagley Park — a lush, sprawling stretch of green in the centre of Christchurch, New Zealand — are connections to Friday’s horrific mass shootings at two mosques.

Fifty people died in the attacks, which targeted Muslims gathered for Friday prayers.

On the west side of the park is the Al Noor mosque, where 42 people were killed as they prayed. The area around the mosque is still blocked off as police continue to investigate at the first site the gunman attacked. 

To the east is Christchurch Hospital, where 30 people wounded in the shootings are being treated. Security officers stand outside the hospital with lists naming the wounded — there to allow loved ones in, and keep others out.

Just to the north of the hospital are hundreds of flowers, cards and candles placed as a tribute to the dead.

For the past three days people have streamed by leaving tributes, and in some cases crouching down to pray. 

“I am Muslim myself,” says Eva Angali who stands with one arm around her boyfriend, while the other hand wipes away tear from her face. 

 “I feel guilty, I feel sad.”

Angali, who immigrated to New Zealand from Indonesia, says she doesn’t safe at the moment because she worries Muslims in Christchurch could become targets again.

Eva Angali and her boyfriend Chase Beardsley dropped off flowers on Monday at growing memorial to the Christchurch victims. (CBC)

“I can’t imagine what it must have even like during Friday prayers, she says. “It’s supposed to be so peaceful.”

The alleged gunman, 28-year old Brenton Tarrant, has been charged with one count of murder, but additional charges are expected in the coming days. 

The investigation is ongoing, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said it’s believed the shooter carried five guns, including two semi-automatic weapons. 

‘I chased him’

Abdul Aziz says at least one of the weapons involved was a shotgun.

He knows because he saw it discarded next to a body at the Linwood mosque, the second location attacked on Friday.

 Aziz says he grabbed the weapon and started toward the shooter. 

“He just ran towards his car and I chased him.”

He says he’s not sure if the shooter ran out of bullets or got scared. 

When the shooter jumped in his car, Aziz threw the gun at the windshield and smashed it. The shooter drove off but was apprehended by police a short time later.

Aziz, a furniture store owner and father of four, couldn’t go anywhere near the Christchurch hospital on the weekend without running into someone who had been inside the mosque and who now considers him a hero.

He shrugs off those accolades, insisting he only did what anyone else would do. When the shooter was gone, Aziz walked back into the mosque, and says what he and others saw has traumatized them all.

 “Each time we close our eyes, we see all of the dead bodies around us.”

Died ‘showing love’ to others

The identities of the 50 victims who were killed are gradually being released by family and friends. They range in age from just a three-year old to more than 70.

Among the dead, 47-year old Husna Ahmed, whose husband Farid Ahmed said she died while trying to help him escape the mosque.

“She was exactly doing what she was — saving other people, caring for other people, showing love to other people.”

Farid Ahmed’s wife, Husna, was killed in the Al Noor mosque, after ensuring the safety of many other women and children who were there to pray. (Chris Corday/CBC)

Ahmed says wife had led a group of women and children outside of the mosque and had come back into to try and rescue him, as he is a paraplegic and in a wheelchair. 

She was shot in the back before she reached him, and later died.

As families wait, officials have said they hope to release the bodies of the victims by Wednesday.

The government has said grants will be available to pay for the funerals, and dozens of graves are currently being dug by crews at Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch. 

The prime minister said Monday that the country will hold a national memorial — but not until the families have all had a chance to bury their dead. 

A constant stream of Christchurch residents have been dropping off flowers and notes of condolence to a still-growing memorial in the city’s downtown. (Chris Corday/CBC)

This story originally appeared on CBC