Christchurch still grieving six months on

By AAP Newswire

There are a great many ways to chart Christchurch's recovery from the horrors of March 15, the day of New Zealand's worst modern mass shooting.

There's material evidence; the tide of flowers, gifts and tributes which ran for hundreds of metres outside the Al Noor mosque, much of which has been re-displayed this month at the Christchurch Art Gallery.

There's the acts of service.

The meals cooked. The company offered.

The vigils shared and hakas performed.

There's the strength of women like Shadia Amin, who lost her husband in the attacks, and might have lost her son too if he wasn't running late for prayers.

Ms Amin couldn't bring herself to visit the roadside tributes but went to the gallery on Friday and was interviewed by TVNZ.

"I'd like to thank the people of New Zealand ... family, neighbours, friends, strangers. Our amazing prime minister," she said.

"Sometimes you find people that hug you in the street. They just see you and hug you. It's amazing.

"I and my family, we really, really thank you from the bottom of our heart."

For all of the kindness, the inescapable reality is that 51 members of the community are gone, targeted for their faith, and killed at their houses of worship, in an ideologically-fuelled terrorist attack.

They were doctors, students, technology experts, engineers. Business owners and labourers.

Ramiz Vora spent just a week with his newborn daughter before he was killed.

His father, Arif, died on a visit from India to meet his first grandchild.

Husna Ahmed died when she ran back into the mosque to try to save her wheelchair-bound husband.

Two of the dead are survived by twin siblings.

The youngest was three years old, separated from his family when the shooting began.

The oldest was a 77-year-old teacher.

Many were immigrants, who each shared a love of their adopted home.

As 47 of the 51 killed were men, dozens of women - like Ms Amin - were widowed by the shootings.

They left behind hundreds of other family members. Thousands of friends.

A craterous gulf in so many lives.

"It's going to take a very, very long time to heal," Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel told AAP.

"We've been pretty severely affected by the events of March 15.

"And, of course, coming on top of the very long recovery from the, from the trauma of the earthquakes. There's been a re-traumatisation of the city."

Those earthquakes were a reference to a mighty 2011 tremor that left 185 Cantabrians dead, destroyed many buildings and left much of the city in disrepair.

Eight years on from the earthquake, the city centre remains in various states of rebuild; a visual reminder of the destruction.

In contrast, there's little physical sign of the March 15 attacks present, either at the Al Noor mosque or the Linwood Islamic Centre across town, the two sites of the killings.

But memories are still very present.

Timothy, a Canterbury man who declined to give his last name, recounted how the attacks changed his way of thinking and way of living.

"I wasn't there but it's emotional to think about and talk about still," he told AAP.

"Driving home, I was imagining what I'd do if he drove past. How I'd drive onto the footpath and try to escape.

"I have friends who pray at Al Noor. I jog past that mosque.

"Every night for three weeks we had at least one helicopter flying overhead.

"It made you not trust anyone. I was nervous going to the supermarket. It changed how you think. It's not a great thing to live through."

But people are enduring.

Ms Dalziel said her most persisting memory of the past six months came a week after the attacks, when the Al Noor imam, Gamal Fouda, decided to go ahead with Friday prayers.

"That was incredible. The most special, meaningful thing to happen after the event," she said.

"The nation observed two minutes silence as part of that service.

"I knew that there were a lot of people who had come to show their solidarity and support ... everyone gathered in the park. From where I was, you couldn't see the extent.

"The minute I became aware of it was when there was spontaneous applause to the imam's address.

"The imam's address was so extraordinary ... and it was so powerful, that you could hear the the applause just continue on.

"That was that feeling of, 'We've got your back'. Something incredibly powerful.

"There were wounds that had been inflicted on the Muslim community and a wound inflicted on our city.

"But I really felt there was the beginning of the healing that day."