The cemetery where most of the Christchurch terror victims are buried is open to the public once more.

Gone are the heavily armed police lining the perimeter, the screens erected to maintain a degree of privacy while the world's media watched mourning Muslims lay their loved ones to rest.

Gone is the heavy machinery used to dig the rows of graves and the mounds of dirt that sat beside each at the sombre site.

Armed police continue to guard the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch where a majority of the mosque shooting victims are buried. Photo / Dean Purcell
Armed police continue to guard the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch where a majority of the mosque shooting victims are buried. Photo / Dean Purcell

Gone are the cordons where hearse after hearse would roll slowly through, carrying the dead on their final journey.

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Gone are the hundreds of grieving family, friends, community.

All that remains is the victims in their graves.

And the quiet.

Aside from the occasional car driving along Linwood's Ruru Rd, a couple of police and a handful of workers deconstructing fencing and the makeshift mosque - the area is still, serene.

The cemetery is now open to the public and the Herald visited this morning.

No one is allowed to film or photograph inside the cemetery without express permission from the Christchurch City Council - and that has yet to be granted.

Of the 50 men, women and children callously and cruelly gunned down at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques on March 15, 41 were buried at Memorial Park.

A 42nd person, Mohamed Elmi, who died in a car crash after grieving with victims, was buried with them

The other nine victims were either repatriated to their country of origin or sent to other parts of New Zealand for burial.

Mourners carry the body of a victim of the mosque shootings for a burial at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch. Photo / AP
Mourners carry the body of a victim of the mosque shootings for a burial at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch. Photo / AP

The tragic landscape bearing mounds of fresh dirt is a harrowing reminder of the atrocity that took place on March 15.

None of these people should be in the ground. They should be at work, with their families, at school.

But because of one man's evil actions, they are here.

Seeing their final resting place for the first time leaves you feeling heavy, dark.

Standing amid so many burial sites where so many people have grieved - and will continue to grieve for the rest of their own lives - is surreal.

The smell of flowers, particularly lilies, wafts through on the warm breeze and bird song and the gentle rustling of the papers and plastics wrapping hundreds of bouquets are the only immediate sounds.

Graves are prepared at Memorial Park Cemetery, in Christchurch, the weekend after the attacks. Photo / Michael Craig
Graves are prepared at Memorial Park Cemetery, in Christchurch, the weekend after the attacks. Photo / Michael Craig

The victims are buried in five rows.

Some graves are outlined by stones, others by flowers and many have handwritten notes or signs with messages of condolences implanted within the floral masses.

Empty graves stand at the head of each row, assumedly one was dug for each victim in case all were laid to rest in Christchurch.

Thousands of footprints are imprinted into the dusty earth between the graves and there will be many more in the coming days and weeks as people, both from the Muslim and wider community, come to pay their respects.

Each grave is simple, marked by a silver plaque bearing the victim's name and date of birth.

A woven flax rose stands behind, Islamic text pinned to each.

Traditionally it is prohibited in Islam to erect a large monument or decorate the grave in an elaborate way - but once a grave has been filled, a small stone or marker may be placed there so that it is recognisable.

Zaid Mustafa, who was injured in the attacks, mourns at the funeral of his older brother Hamza and father Khaled. Photo / AP
Zaid Mustafa, who was injured in the attacks, mourns at the funeral of his older brother Hamza and father Khaled. Photo / AP

Herald reporters were present for most of the funerals - the first being Syrian refugee Khaled Mustafa and his teenage son Hamza.

Hamza's younger brother Zaid was also shot in the terror attack.

He survived and was present, in a wheelchair and on temporary release from Christchurch Hospital, when his beloved father and brother were lowered into the ground and covered with earth by the hands of their family and community.

Khaled and Hamza are buried side by side.

Over the next few days bodies were transported to the cemetery one after the other, often with hearses lined up waiting at the cordon.

Each victim was carried into the makeshift mosque and placed before the brothers.

Prayers - the Salat al-Janazah - would be recited as they faced "qiblah" or Mecca, before the body was lifted from its open coffin and carried to the grave.

Those placing the body in the grave would recite "Bismillah wa ala millati rasulilllah" or "in the name of Allah and in the faith of the Messenger of Allah".

Mourners comfort each other as the victims are laid to rest at Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch. Photo / AP
Mourners comfort each other as the victims are laid to rest at Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch. Photo / AP

And then, each brother would approach and throw in three handfuls of dirt.

Once the grave was filled, they filed back slowly to the marquee-cum-outdoor mosque for the next farewell.

Between the burials and the grief, it must have been utterly exhausting for those inside the cemetery.

Those of us bearing witness outside - with the blessing of the families and community, who wanted their loss reported in a bid to educate and inform - found it hard to watch at times, the stream of burials and the dignity and humility each was carried out under, impressive and overwhelming.

One of the last to be buried was 3-year-old Mucaad Ibrahim.

The toddler's tiny body was carried aloft in a shroud, almost weightless, by 10 of his Somali family wearing long dark robes.

Some of them reached in for a last embrace.

Mucaad was the youngest of the terror victims, his bright face and big brown eyes etched in the memories of so many New Zealanders - one of the most gut-wrenching reminders of the horror that occurred in the Garden City 11 days ago.

His, along with his brothers and sisters, final moments would have been spent in abject terror as the sound of relentless shooting filled their places of worship, places they should have been safe.

But here at Memorial Park Cemetery there is no fear, no danger, no more bloodshed.

Here there is just peace.