Christchurch mosque attack: How survivors and victims' families are coping two years on

Monday marks two years since terror was unleashed on two mosques in Christchurch.

Fifty-one people were killed, 40 badly injured and hundreds suffered emotional wounds that will never heal.

In this Because it Matters story, Newshub reporter Juliet Speedy caught up with survivors and victims' families to see how far they've come, two years on.

Two years on, Temel Atacocugu is finally back doing one of the things he loves the most - playing football.

Atacocugu was shot nine times on March 15 in his arms, legs and mouth. He's walking a long road - mentally and physically traumatised. He's had many surgeries and still has many to come, so this is a big milestone.

"Because this is the most thing I loved to do in my life and I don't think, myself, I can be without football," Atacocugu says.

Atacocugu spoke in Saturday's memorial service. The pain and grief is still so raw.

"What I witnessed on 15 March 2019, it's going to stay forever with me," he says.

Farid Ahmed lost his wife on March 15 but what he gained was worldwide attention for his outlook on life - always forgiving, always grateful.

"I'm feeling thankful that, thank god you have given me extra time because I could have been killed also, and also very very thankful to New Zealanders," he says.

Yesterday, the first national memorial service took place after COVID cancelled it last year.

Mother-of-two Hamimah Tuyan is one of 31 women widowed on March 15. For her last year's cancellation was a blessing in disguise.

"I think mentally in terms of being able to emotionally handle it, it has given us a bit of respite if I could call it that, that one year delay," she says.

Tuyan is fresh out of quarantine, she's just moved back to Christchurch from Singapore with her two young sons. Despite all the memories, she wants to be here supporting her community.

"And leaving a legacy and outcome for not just those ones who have left us but the survivors, the strong brave brothers and sisters surviving this."

Siham Alsalfiti is also now a widow. Her husband Abdul Qasem was shot dead on March 15 while protecting his injured friends. She found yesterday's service healing.

"I found it very helpful, it made me feel that we are not alone and I'm really proud of the government keeps acknowledging the loss of 51 innocent Shahids [martyrs]," she says.

Two years on, she is learning to live with what she calls a cloud of grief over her head.

"That cloud was extremely heavy at the start. I would feel guilty if I put on something that I used to like or if I go for a walk or if I laugh, but now I'm learning how to live and continue the legacy of Abdul Fatar and do what he likes," she says.

There are hundreds of people profoundly impacted by the terrorist attack and all of their journeys are different but one thing all the victims say is how healing it's been to feel the arms of New Zealand around them, and that they desperately hope the country is and will be a better, safer and more inclusive place because of what they've been through.

"It has changed the country, it was more like a wake-up call for all of us. This is what hatred and ignorance can lead to," Alsalfiti says.

"We should all come together and think about those hard questions, we restore, we reform or we transform, which level is needed for what aspect of our lives," Tuyan says.

For this community, the path ahead is a complex one.

Atacocugu takes antidepressants, regularly sees a psychologist but he has one simple hope.

"Trying to get back to a normal life, a simple basic normal life," he says.

A life many took for granted two years ago before March 15, 2019.