CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — There was no point in trying to make sense of the attacks on two mosques here. There was no sense. The only thing the survivors and their communities could do over the weekend was try to comfort one another.
In a community college hall and in the main hospital, both on the opposite side of Hagley Park, Christchurch’s equivalent of New York’s Central Park, from a mosque where 40 people were gunned down in one of two attacks, people gathered to recount their horror and to console one another.
In homes around Christchurch, which has fewer than 400,000 people and prides itself as New Zealand’s “Garden City,” relatives gathered in what felt like wakes — except that they haven’t been able to bury their loved ones yet.
The bodies are slowly being returned to the families, with the first funerals expected Monday.
Here, some of the survivors of the attacks tell The Washington Post about their ordeal.
Kevin Avisena, 19, a student from Indonesia training in New Zealand to be a pilot.
Every Friday, I go to the mosque. The first five to 10 minutes, the prayers were going on. Then I heard bang, bang, bang. I though it was an electricity overload. I still sat and did nothing. But the sound kept coming and people started standing up and screaming. That was when I realized what was happening. I saw the man in the black tactical suit.
I was close to the window and it had been broken. People were trying to jump out. I got trapped under people as they were trying to get out. Maybe 20 people piled on top of me. There was so many people. I was there on the ground for maybe 10 minutes, then I heard someone yell out “brothers.” The gunman had gone.
I stood up and saw that everyone around me was dead. There was blood on the floor. Someone was screaming for help. He had been shot in the chest. It was a miracle that I was not shot. When I saw the video [that the alleged gunman made during the attack], I could see myself in it.
I managed to escape and get to my car in the parking lot. But I couldn’t drive away because there were bodies on the ground.
I’m still afraid. I don’t want to go out to a restaurant or anywhere.
Said Abdukadir, 25-year-old born in Somalia. His father, Abdukadir Elmi, 70, was killed in the al-Noor mosque.
On that Friday, I came from home with my wife and our 9-month-old baby. We usually arrive at about 1:15, but our baby slept late that day. When we arrived, I saw people running from the mosque. I thought there must have been a fire. Then I saw that the doors were open and there was no one inside. I thought it was really weird. Then the shooter came out. I pulled over and told my friend that he needed to get into the car. Now. Then he saw the gunman getting another gun from his car.
Another Somali brother had parked behind us. He was leaning out his window telling someone to get into his car. The gunman shot at him and the bullet went through the back of his seat.
I drove off, looking at my baby in the back, looking at the gunman.
This is devastating. My father survived through civil war. I never thought this kind of stuff would happen to him in New Zealand.