Hours after a right-wing extremist killed 49 worshippers at two mosques in New Zealand's Christchurch, a survivor of Indian origin today recalled how the heroism of an unidentified man in their midst prevented the incident from turning into a much bigger tragedy.
"We were in a small mosque - measuring about a hundred square metres - and when you have a gunman coming in and opening fire in such circumstances, your heart beats faster and you can't feel anything," Faisal Sayed, who has been living in New Zealand for over 10 years, told Radhika Naidu, a former colleague at NDTV. "But a friend and I witnessed this gentleman creep up behind the shooter and hold him until his gun dropped."
Mr Sayed said the unidentified man's heroic action left the shooter with little choice but to rush for the door of the Linwood Mosque. "If that hadn't happened, many more would have died and I wouldn't be here now. Hats off to that man; I will definitely try and look him up," he added.
However, the survivor said that the incident has left him with no ill-feelings towards his adoptive country, and reiterated his belief that New Zealand was one of the safest places in the world. "I can't speak for anybody else, but I have been in this beautiful country for the last 10 years and I don't see my loved ones, my family or even my community facing any challenges. I will never be the one to pass judgment based on a single incident," explained Mr Sayed, who used to live in Mumbai before shifting to New Zealand.
So, did the thought of leaving the country not cross his mind at all? "Not an option," said Mr Sayed. "I love New Zealand, I love the people around here, and I have received more calls from Kiwi families and friends than anybody else. Even people I worked with over 10 years ago have been texting to find out if everything is alright."
According to the survivor, the need of the hour was to reassure affected families and ensure that the incident is not blown out of proportion. "There were a lot of casualties, and a lot of people have been calling. People tend to judge and jump the gun, but spreading the right message is key to making everything alright again," he told Radhika Naidu.
While one of Mr Sayed's friends died of his injuries, another is still hospitalised. In all, eight worshippers at the mosque were killed.
The attacker live-streamed footage of his progress from room to room in the mosques, shooting down wounded worshippers as they struggled to crawl away. Three people, including an Australian in his late twenties, were taken into custody after the massacre. One of them has been charged with murder.
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