‘I hope you feel the arms of NZ around you’

Al Noor Mosque shooting survivors (from left) Mustafa Boztas, Wasseim Alsati and Temel Atacocugu...
Al Noor Mosque shooting survivors (from left) Mustafa Boztas, Wasseim Alsati and Temel Atacocugu celebrate as they leave Christchurch High Court following the sentencing of Brenton Harrison Tarrant yesterday. Tarrant has been sentenced to life in prison without parole after being found guilty of 92 charges relating to New Zealand’s worst mass shooting in history. He was charged with 51 counts of murder and 40 of attempted murder as well as engaging in a terrorist act. PHOTO: GETTY/POOL
The victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks emerged from yesterday’s sentencing to a hero’s welcome.

"I hope you feel the arms of New Zealand around you," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement.

There could have no misinterpretation of the public’s response yesterday.

A colourful crowd lined the street outside the courthouse in Lichfield St cheering for those who had spent the last three days bravely facing the gunman and sharing their stories of grief and pain.

"We are one" — and other slogans that united a nation in the wake of the racist attack — were emblazoned on placards as people embraced those who had become the faces of the tragedy.

There was singing, haka and an overwhelming sense of relief.

Wasseim Daragmih, who was shot three times and whose young daughter suffered severe injuries at the hands of the shooter, approached those gathered with arms aloft.

He called them "family" and hailed the strength of his fellow survivors.

Abdul Aziz Wahabazadah was the hero who chased Tarrant away from Linwood Islamic Centre armed only with an empty firearm.

He stood atop barriers, victorious, posing for photos and speaking with wellwishers.

During yesterday’s sentencing, Justice Cameron Mander praised those who had presented their statements for their "dignified" conduct, which was maintained as the killer was led into the cells.

Hamimah Tuyan — whose husband Zekiriya was the "last of the martyrs", dying in hospital 48 days after being shot — was there to witness it and said the sentencing lifted a huge weight from her shoulders.

While the killer being locked up forever would not bring the victims back, she said it was the next best thing.

Dr Tuyan beamed when asked about the public show of support outside court.

"This is New Zealand and we are seeing yet another example of the big hearts New Zealanders have," she said.

"The humanity, the compassion — you can’t match it."

Add a Comment

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter