Overwhelming emotional support poured out from New Zealand residents for the victims of the carnage at two mosques in Christchurch. Tributes lined the city's botanical gardens in the form of flowers, cards, toys from children and people leaving their phone numbers to lend emotional support to the families of the victims of the shooting. "So, so sorry this isn't us," read an emotional message, written on a card by a citizen to show solidarity with the victims of the attack. "Kia Kaha" said many messages, a phrase in the Te Reo language of New Zealand, meaning "stay strong".
"They will never win. Choose love," read one of the many chalk engravings on the pavements of the gardens.
"We still love this country," said Ibrahim Abdul Halim, the imam of Linwood Mosque, where around seven people were killed in the shooting, reported news agency AFP. "My children live here. We are happy," he said, thanking the majority of New Zealanders who "are very keen to support all of us."
Mr Halim offered a distressing account of the moment the shooting occurred during Friday prayers, when gunshots rang out in the mosque, replacing tranquility with bloodshed and loud screams, reported AFP.
"Everyone laid down on the floor, and some women started crying, some people died immediately," he said.
New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the country was going through one of its darkest days, after a right-wing terrorist barged into two mosques and opened indiscriminate fire on worshippers, killing 49 and injuring dozens and live-streaming the entire incident on social media.
"You were quick to mention this is not the New Zealand that you know. I want to reaffirm that today. This is not New Zealand," she said in another statement, quoted by news agency ANI.
"Extremists would never ever touch our confidence," Mr Halim said, perhaps echoing an emotionally-charged sentiment shared by the families of the victims.
(With Inputs From AFP And ANI)