Roller-coaster of anguish for survivor of New Zealand shooting

22 March 2019 - 11:48 By Jill Gralow and Natasha Howitt
Mourners carry the body of a victim during a burial ceremony for victims of the mosque attacks at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 22 2019.
Mourners carry the body of a victim during a burial ceremony for victims of the mosque attacks at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 22 2019.
Image: REUTERS / Edgar Su

Christchurch, New Zealand — For Ashir Rizvi, 29, the week since he survived a mass shooting in New Zealand has been a roller-coaster of emotions, with tears of grief for the dead and relief for those who survived.

Rizvi was with his friend at a mosque in the Linwood neighbourhood of the city of Christchurch just as Friday prayers began a week ago, when a lone gunman arrived, shooting bullets through the windows at worshippers inside.

"We just ran towards the corner, panicking, crying, and we were just waiting for him to come inside and shoot us," Rizvi said on Friday, while sitting in a botanical gardens near a makeshift memorial wall.

"There was no place to escape ... we were just crying because you can see this person dead in front of you, and you all might be the next one."

Seven people were killed at the Linwood mosque, the second one the lone gunman attacked.

The first was the Al Noor mosque. In all, 50 people were killed and dozens wounded.

Survivors say the toll at the Linwood mosque would have been higher had a fellow worshipper, Abdul Aziz, not confronted the shooter, grabbing a credit card machine and hurling it at him before chasing him down the street with an unloaded shotgun which he hurled at him through his car window.

Aziz survived.

Rizvi and his flatmate also escaped without injury but their friend, Ahmed Iqbal Jahangir, was shot in the collar bone.

He was in intensive care until Friday, and could lose the use of his right hand due to nerve damage, Rizvi said.

Over the past few days, Rizvi has been attending funerals with his friend and other members of the community.

"It's heartbreaking," he said, fighting back tears.

Amid the grief there were tears of joy from those who survived, or from their relieved families, Rizvi said.

"It's just a roller-coaster of emotions."

Rizvi arrived in New Zealand seven years ago from India to study. He is now in the hospitality business and moved from Wellington to Christchurch in 2016 thanks to a promotion.

Rizvi, asked if he was going to return to work soon, said he could not dwell on what happened and had to move on.

"I want to go back to this world, and you know, try to engage myself, rather than doing nothing and just thinking about what happened because that's the only way out for me."

Despite the traumatic violence, Rizvi said he felt safe with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the helm.

He then went to join Ardern and about 20,000 others in a park opposite the Al Noor mosque to mourn the victims of New Zealand's worst mass shooting. 

Reuters


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