Each week on Friday, Tarik Chenafa sat in the same place at the Masjid Al Noor mosque - under the huge window on the north-west side.

The Algerian immigrant had fled to Christchurch to escape civil war in his own country in the 1990s. As a teenager in the army there, he'd learned about guns. Later, watching massacres in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States from afar, he learned about hatred.

"When I see what happened in too many mosque in other countries… I knew one day someone will do the same to us," he told the Herald from his living room in Wigram, ten minutes from the city centre.

"I told management here, we need security but they thought it will never happen. So I sat by the window because I thought one day I will need to go out the window."

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It was 1.40pm when he heard the first bullet. The imam was ten minutes into his half-hour speech about friendship, and love. The mosque was full to overflowing, worshippers piled into the hallway as well as the prayer room. The women were, as usual, in the separate area to the right of the entryway.

Usually, Chenafa, 54, brought his children to the mosque with him. His daughter, Norhan, 4, liked to play near the door where the gunman first started shooting.

"I'm lucky I didn't take my daughter with me. I thank God. I thank God," he said.

Each week on Friday, Tarik Chenafa sat in the same place at the Masjid Al Noor mosque - under the huge window on the north-west side.
Each week on Friday, Tarik Chenafa sat in the same place at the Masjid Al Noor mosque - under the huge window on the north-west side.

Chenafa's army training meant he recognised the gunshots for what they were almost straight away.

"I heard 'bam' and I thought it was breaking glass or fireworks …..and then I heard 'dud dud dud' and I knew this isn't a game, it is an attack."

He didn't look at the gunman. There was no time. He simply looked to the window, and decided to go through it.

"Do you watch rugby? You know when they attack someone who has the ball to stop him? I attack the window like that with my body."

The glass broke, Chenafa went through, and then he ran for his life. Blood was pouring from his head, his arm, his legs. It filled his socks until they were wet. He didn't stop. He jumped the wall at the back of the compound, landing hard. Then he climbed through a neighbour's fence, and another neighbour's fence, until he reached the street.

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"Behind me I can hear the kids crying, there is still shooting. It went on for a long time," he said.

Others had followed him out the window. In the other corners of the mosque, people were dying, unable to escape.

Out on the street, Chenafa stopped a car and asked the driver to take him to hospital. He was the first there, a friend with a huge cut down his thigh behind him. Their arrival caused mass confusion.

Mosque shooting survivor Tarik Chenafa with his daughter Norhan, 4, and son Nader, 8. Photo / Diego Opatowski
Mosque shooting survivor Tarik Chenafa with his daughter Norhan, 4, and son Nader, 8. Photo / Diego Opatowski

"We said, there will be more, there's been a shooting. But then the police came in with a gun, they thought there had been a shooting there, they got a guy on the ground but we said 'not here! The mosque."

Soon after the hospital was shut down. Chenafa was treated and released. Meanwhile, however, someone had mistakenly posted his photo to Facebook, saying he was dead. His family in Algeria saw it, and panicked. His wife was distraught.

"A nurse helped me to call her, because my phone was in the car at the mosque. She was going crazy because she couldn't get through," he said.

Chenafa said his injuries were not severe, although he was limping badly around his home while he spoke.

"This scratch is going to be alright, but the scratch on the heart….it's going to be hard," he said.

He said he couldn't understand what had happened, or what.

"Why would you kill anyone who doesn't believe what you believe? It's stupid, it's not normal," he said.

Chenafa said the shooter could have had a happy life - a normal life, with happy weekends, raising children - the reason "we're on earth" - but now that was over.

"He is going to regret it all his life. He's lost his freedom. He's going to be all his life in a cage. He's going to regret it. He's going to be 50,60,70 years old and realise he did something very very very …. idiot act. Stupid act. To kill a human," he said.

He shook his head as he spoke, pulling at the bandage on his hand, trying not to cry in front of his kids.

"We can't stop it. There's idiot people everywhere in the world, from muslim, christian, racists, idiots," he said.

"It was… it is a very sad day, for us, for the community, for muslims, for New Zealand, We never thought it would happen here in Christchurch, this beautiful city."