Gigi Sosnoski could not believe that the mosque attacks in Christchurch on March 15 had happened in her beautiful adopted country.
Any death was tragic, she said, but these attacks were "incredibly, incredibly horrible."
Ms Sosnoski, one of more than 150 people who attended Friday's memorial service at the Turner Centre, and one of many women who covered their hair as a gesture of solidarity with the Muslim community, said she had moved to New Zealand from the United States more than 15 years ago, in part to escape the gun violence there, and had no regrets about that decision. If anything the attacks had strengthened her resolve to stay; she hoped the tragedy would lead to "a greater good" and better understanding.
"I have great love, admiration and respect for what this country stands for, and the inclusiveness it provides,'' she said.
The service included live-streaming of the national service in Christchurch, the gathering including Far North District Council staff and high school students, who, along with those in Christchurch, applauded Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and attack survivor Farid Ahmed, who said in his address that he forgave the killer even though his wife was among those who had died.
The closing prayer was offered by 10-year-old Kaikohe Intermediate School pupil Ameera Azam, from Taheke, who identifies as both Māori and Muslim. The attacks had made her sad and angry, she said, so she was pleased that she could contribute to the service with a Muslim prayer.
Her message was: "Don't be shy about your culture, be proud."
Meanwhile seven police officers armed with pistols, and one police dog, were stationed around the Turner Centre for the service. Senior Sergeant Peter Robinson said their presence was to reassure the public.