Christchurch Mourns After Shooting Christchurch's residents are coming to terms with Friday's shooting that killed at least 50 people. Many are showing support for the Muslim community, which is struggling to process the attacks.
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'This Has Rocked Us To Our Knees:' Christchurch Mourns After Shooting

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'This Has Rocked Us To Our Knees:' Christchurch Mourns After Shooting

'This Has Rocked Us To Our Knees:' Christchurch Mourns After Shooting

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Fifty dead - that is the death toll of the attack on two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch. More than 20 others remain in the hospital. The victims were fathers and mothers and children and friends, many looking for a new life in New Zealand. Now a community is grieving. The alleged shooter is a 28-year-old Australian man who livestreamed his attack on Facebook. He appeared in court on Friday and flashed a white power sign. NPR's Rob Schmitz is in Christchurch. And he brings us this profile of a city picking up the pieces.

ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: It's Sunday morning breakfast at the Rasol-O-Allah Islamic Center, the only mosque in Christchurch that wasn't attacked on Friday. Five men sit on the floor surrounding a carpet filled with plates of naan, potatoes and cups of black tea. They're from all over the world - Afghanistan, Pakistan, Fiji. And they all became citizens of New Zealand for the same reason. Here, they believed, they could practice their faith in peace. That belief has now been shaken.

AJAD ALI: They all are, of course, crying. And they are really hurt.

SCHMITZ: Imam Ajad Ali (ph) just flew in from Auckland. Several of his friends were among the 50 people who were killed. He's come to console their families.

ALI: And many of them have seen the videos of the killer, who actually recorded everything and sent to the social media. And that's affecting them a lot as well.

SCHMITZ: It's affecting everyone in Christchurch, population 400,000, dubbed the garden city of New Zealand. In front of the botanical gardens, residents have left thousands of flowers, candles and letters pledging support for their Muslim neighbors. Alan Truman (ph) brought flowers from his own garden. He says the last tragedy here was the 2011 earthquake that killed nearly 200 people. But this feels worse.

ALAN TRUMAN: The earthquakes were one thing. This is just - this is human. This is hatred. We're a proud city. We're resilient. But this has just rocked us to our knees.

SCHMITZ: Sheikh Faraz (ph) is dealing with the pain through constant work. He's making airport runs, picking up Muslims who arrive every hour from throughout New Zealand. It was at the mosque Faraz attended where most of the people were killed, many his friends. He hasn't slept in two days. He says he and his wife don't know how to process the pain.

SHEIKH FARAZ: We were crying and crying. And we can't cry anymore. We just, like - and we can't sleep either. It just - and then the kids asking, what's going on, dad? And I said, oh, there's - you know, something's gone wrong not right. And we're trying to make it right, but it's - and we don't want to let them know what's happened. It's, like, I don't know how we do talk to them about it, you know?

SCHMITZ: Faraz went grocery shopping yesterday and began to panic. He kept thinking someone is going to shoot up the market. He says he's never felt this way before, nor has Methon Noor (ph), an immigrant from Bangladesh.

METHON NOOR: Now it's, like, not - feel not safe here because we thinking somewhere, somebody come in, can shoot again.

SCHMITZ: Noor says there aren't many Bangladeshis here, so his friends were like family. On Friday, five of them were murdered. A sixth, his best friend Gakira (ph), is still missing, but he thinks he's dead, too.

NOOR: Last night, we was in hospital. They was told us this morning we'd get the final information finally. But it's still not happening this. We are still waiting here.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: One person does not represent us all.

SCHMITZ: Inside the crisis center for families of the victims, a Christian group of Maori, New Zealand's indigenous people, have arrived. They show support through dance.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting in foreign language).

SCHMITZ: It's a traditional Haka dance and an emotional one. Several of the Maori men performing it do so through tears, prompting others to cry, too.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting in foreign language).

(APPLAUSE)

SCHMITZ: There are hundreds of family members here and dozens of survivors. A man in his 50s told me when the shooting started, bodies piled up on top of him, and he's not sure how he wasn't hit with a bullet. Another man, Adan (ph) from Somalia, told me after his young son was shot and the gunman had fled, he picked up his boy and cradled him in his arms. As the boy lay dying, Adan says he kept whispering into his son's ear, God is sufficient. He is my protector. God is sufficient. He is my protector.

Rob Schmitz, NPR News, Christchurch.

(SOUNDBITE OF CUONG VU 4-TET'S "ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE")

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