Since we have returned from Christchurch, I have not been able to stop thinking about Zaid and his mum, Salwa.
Zaid, a 13-year-old who looks older than his age due to his height but has the innocence of a 13-year-old. His innocence was taken away from him with the murder of his dad and brother.
I just could not help but put myself in Salwa’s position as I gave her a hug and I could not help but imagine Zaid was my son, or even Hamza, his 15-year-old brother who was shot while running from the terrorist.
We spent about an hour with Zaid, we were drawn to him, we just wanted to be there for him.
At the time we visited him, his mum was busy speaking to the police officers so he had no other adults with him. Although we said “if you’re tired, we’ll leave you to rest”, he insisted that we stay. It seemed he didn’t want to be left alone. He explained to us what had happened.
Zaid had gone to the mosque for Friday prayer with his dad, Khaled, and his brother, Hamza. His dad was listening to the khutbah somewhere else while Zaid and Hamza were seated somewhere else, also listening to the khutbah.
When the shooting started, Zaid and Hamza started to run. They got outside (I am not sure if they got shot while in the mosque or outside) but Zaid was able to scramble behind a car for protection from more shots, even though he was shot twice. He was fortunate in that none of his vital organs were affected by the shots. Hamza’s situation was different.
This is where Mustafa’s story comes in. Mustafa is a 21-year-old who I was also very drawn to, maybe because he was of a similar age to my son. Also, his mum was not fluent in English and preferred to speak Turkish so we connected at that level.
Mustafa and his family are from Konya, Turkey. Mustafa had been in Christchurch for one month to study at university, his parents lived 4 hours away. Mustafa also told us his story.
When the shooting started, they all started running, looking for an exit. They ran towards the window but were unable to break the window and escape so they ran to the left-hand corner of the main room of the mosque.
He said how he played dead hoping the terrorist would not shoot at them, but the terrorist still did. He was shot below his hip and because he was lying horizontally, the bullet travelled to his liver. Despite this, he continued to play dead to avoid further shots. When the shooting stopped for a while, he put his head up and realised the terrorist was not there.
He assumed that he had gone to reload his gun. Injured, he ran to the window, broke the glass with his bare hands (for which he had to receive stitches) and ran out. As he was running, he saw Hamza lying on the ground, face up with his eyes open. He tried to do CPR on him; mouth to mouth resuscitation and rhythmically pressing down on his chest.
Mustafa wanted to save Hamza but he eventually realised Hamza was dead from the way his eyes were staring into the sky. As Hamza lay there, he still had his phone in his hand and someone was on the line. It was Hamza’s mum, Salwa.
Mustafa took the phone and told Hamza’s mum that Hamza had died. He then closed Hamza’s eyes and continued to run. Mustafa explained how he could not get Hamza’s face out of his mind.
What Zaid and Mustafa have to live with for the rest of their lives is beyond words. This includes other survivors and family of the dead. May Allah make it easy for them, as well as for all the survivors.
Please keep them in your prayers.