March 15 memorial day devastating for widow of victims

Sunday is the first anniversary of the March 15 mosque attacks in Christchurch that shocked the nation and the world.

They were particularly devasting for the Moustafa family. Father Khaled and his 16-year-old son Hamza were among the 51 killed that day, while another son was wounded.

Having fled war in Syria the family were part of a community sponsorship refugee resettlement programme and had been in Christchurch for just seven months when their lives were torn apart.

For Salwa Moustafa there are no words to truly express her loss.

Her husband Khaled had taken their two boys to the Al Noor Mosque. When the shooting started Hamza rang his mum and she heard what no mother ever should, the chaos of his last moments.

With another son in hospital there was little time to grieve, and Salwa's friends through the family's community refugee settlement programme made all the difference.

"Every time when I came home to change my clothes I found flowers and cards in front of my door," she says.

"My friends, they didn't leave me at all. They spent all the time with me trying to make it easier for me."

A letter to Jacinda Ardern also brought relief, when the Prime Minister fast-tracked family to join her.

"I feel that I can't stay here by myself because I don't have any family so I asked to bring my family here," Salwa says.

"Now I have my two brothers and my mum so it's good to have them with me now."

Fellow Syrian refugee Hisham Alzarzour was also in the mosque that day. He's lucky to be alive.

"I was under the bodies. I realised my friend, he's next to me and I look at him and he was injured and he was suffering," he says.

"I got two bullets in my body - my legs. I got two bullets, yeah it was a very hard time."

Incredibly both families are committed to staying in New Zealand and say this is their home.

"After March 15 New Zealand and Christchurch proved to all the world - OK this has happened but we can be united and we can prove when the bad things happen we are one," Alzarzour says.

And they want other refugees to feel that too, telling their stories in the hope the pilot community sponsorship programme will become permanent.