Thomas Mead: Christchurch attack - how do we move on from the terror?

OPINION: Last week I watched as a jogger ran past the Deans Ave mosque, running on a footpath the terrorist used.

Members of the Muslim community bustled by, on their way inside for Ramadan.

Driving past on my way home from work, life seemed incredulously normal. There was little sign of the terror attack that killed 51 people and injured many more just under two months earlier.

My mind went back to that afternoon, on March 15, when camera operator Mike Johnson and I arrived to find a scene of absolute pandemonium.

Two police officers were taking cover behind a Holden Terrano, aiming assault rifles down the street. I'd been around stressed cops before, but I'd never seen them act like this.

They were primal, shouting expletives and screaming at people in the park to run. The joggers obliged, sprinting as fast as they could, passing us by on their way to safety.

By the time the ambulances started running back-to-back, we were live on television.

The cordon was busy as victims filtered out of the mosque and worried family members arrived, desperate for any news.

Ramzan Ali bravely told us he had escaped in bare feet, with blood on his clothes. Passerby Jill Keats tearfully explained how she'd given first aid to an injured man on the road.

But it was Farid Ahmed who gave the most detailed and concise account of the horror that had taken place.

Sitting in a wheelchair at the cordon, he calmly explained how he'd been unable to escape the mosque to rescue his wife.

Unbeknown to both of us at the time, news started spreading internationally and the interview went across the globe, picked up by major outlets like the BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera.

Jacinda Ardern leaves flowers at the memorial.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern leaves flowers at the memorial. Photo credit: Getty

Suddenly, the eyes of the entire world were centred on Christchurch, as news spread to hundreds of millions of people.

Soon, we heard the terrifying news that another mosque had been attacked in Linwood. Then, relief as police revealed the terrorist had been apprehended.

In the days and weeks afterwards, it felt like Christchurch would never be the same again. Now, almost two months later, I find myself sitting in traffic in the same spot, sitting outside the mosque on Deans Ave for the same evening commute I've done for years.

I've been struggling with guilt ever since the attack, knowing that as my life returned to normal the lives of others in our community were in absolute turmoil.

The cordons have gone, the flowers have wilted and the joggers have returned to Hagley Park, but those in the Muslim community are still feeling the impact every single day.

How do we move forward after hate? I put this question to Farid Ahmed in the days after the attack, in an interview where he told me he had forgiven the gunman, despite losing his wife.

He had a simple but powerful response. "If someone does bad to you, do good in return".

The same message of hope was spread by the Muslims I spoke to at Christchurch Hospital and at the cemetery as they grieved - that love is the only way to beat hate.

Life will continue as normal for some of us, for others it is forever changed.

But if each one of us makes a new effort to love and understand each other as the months go on, the 51 worshippers who lost their lives in Christchurch will never be forgotten.

Where to find help and support:

Thomas Mead is a TV reporter for Newshub and was on the scene shortly after the attack.