A month ago today, New Zealand changed forever. Fifty lives were taken and dozens of people injured during the Christchurch mosques attacks. Gun laws have already changed and some Anzac Day services have been cancelled as we come to grips with an increased awareness of terror. Today, we talk to one of the survivors, a man who played dead to survive. He is now learning to walk again after being shot in the back.

When shooting victim Rahimi Ahmad woke from a six-day coma his thoughts were not for himself but his 11-year-old son who had been in Al Noor Mosque with him during the terror attacks.

Rahimi reached for his son Razif's hand when the shooting started but the terrified child ran off. Moments later he was shot in the back and lay bleeding face down, not knowing if his son was alive.

It's been one month since the good-humoured father-of-two's life changed forever - and there's a long road to recovery ahead.


For six days he lay in a coma, his distraught wife Azila and two young children at his bedside, holding his hand.

Now, he faces another three to six months in hospital, learning to walk again.

Rahimi had played dead after being gunned down inside the central Christchurch mosque on March 15.

Lying there face down, bleeding in the masjid's main hall, he didn't know if his son had made it. Two bodies tumbled on top of him. He felt one moan and twitch before they were shot again. The moaning and twitching stopped.

"Anyone groaning or saying, 'Allah, Allah', got shot again," Rahimi said.

"I just lay there with my face down on the floor with my eyes closed, pretending to be dead. Time felt very long.

"When the police came in, I tried to move the bodies off me."

Rushed to hospital, he kept asking where Razif was. Then he was unconscious and undergoing emergency surgery.


It took almost a week to learn his son was alive.

When he emerged from his coma the following Thursday, his first words were: "Where's my son?"

Hospital staff got his wife on the phone. "Where's Razif?" he cried.

Al Noor Mosque shooting survivor Rahimi Ahmad was visited in hospital while he was still unconscious by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, pictured here with his wife Azila. Photo / Supplied
Al Noor Mosque shooting survivor Rahimi Ahmad was visited in hospital while he was still unconscious by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, pictured here with his wife Azila. Photo / Supplied

Rahimi learned how his boy had been helped outside and over a back wall to safety. Someone drove him to the end of the street. A local woman hid him inside her house for hours.

He was then taken to a family friend's home where he stayed until his mother came to get him at about 7.30pm.

Azila, who had finished a biomedical engineering PhD the day before, had been home that afternoon with their other child, 8-year-old daughter Faiqah.

At about 2.50pm, a friend called her to say that Razif was safe. She had no idea what she was on about.

"She told me there had been a shooting, that something bad had happened at the mosque and wasn't sure about Rahimi," Azila recalled.

After getting Razif, she rushed to Christchurch Hospital to try and get word of her husband.

A Malaysian doctor told her he thought he'd seen Rahimi in intensive care.

Another friend who worked at the hospital as a scientist started asking around. A photo of her husband was passed around nurses.

At about 10pm, she found him. Unconscious and undergoing surgery. But stable.

The bullet had entered his lower right back and injured his spine and abdomen.

Rahimi, a service technician at Livestock Improvement Corporation in Christchurch, faces a long road to recovery.

He's been moved to Burwood Hospital across the city where he has limited movement in his right leg. He undergoes twice daily physio sessions.

The pain is bad, he says, especially at night. Morphine doesn't always do the trick.

And he's been told he could be in hospital for another three to six months.

But he's keeping positive, thankful for his supportive and loving family, along with good mates and a caring employer and colleagues.

Al Noor Mosque shooting survivor Rahimi Ahmad with his wife Azila and two children, Razif and Faiqah. Photo / Supplied
Al Noor Mosque shooting survivor Rahimi Ahmad with his wife Azila and two children, Razif and Faiqah. Photo / Supplied

For the family, who migrated to "calm, friendly, safe" New Zealand from Malaysia in 2014, the terror attack has long-lasting effects.

And a month on, they are not alone.


After the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, and Port Hills fires of 2017, Christchurch is used to dusting itself off, learning to live with whatever the "new normal" is. Like police officers with guns on the streets.

They're no longer patrolling outside the shiny new $300 million Christchurch Justice and Emergency Services Precinct with shoulder-slung Bushmaster rifles.

But they remain outside Al Noor Mosque, where 42 Muslim worshippers were slain during Friday prayer, and across town at Linwood Mosque where another seven people were killed one month ago.

They're at a few other sites, too, and there remains a heightened sense of vigilance and alertness. The sound of siren or sight of a flashing cop car attracts extra interest.

Some Anzac Day events across the nation have been canned and some churches are considering security at the doors for Easter Services.


The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet says New Zealand's current national terrorism threat level remains "High", which means a "terrorist attack is assessed as very likely".

It's one step down from an "Extreme" threat level where a terrorist attack or "violent criminal behaviour, or violent protest activity is expected imminently".

Security was tight and the atmosphere tense at the first Friday prayer since the attack, one week later across the road from Al Noor Mosque in Hagley Park.

"We are broken-hearted but we are not broken," Al Noor Mosque Imam Gamal Fouda said in a powerful speech beamed around the world by the hundreds of media members who had descended on Christchurch.


The outpouring of grief has been raw, unprecedented and ongoing. Vigils were held across the country, schoolchildren performed impromptu hakas.

Thousands of people laid bouquets, cards, messages, toys, and other tributes at mosque cordons and along Rolleston Ave in central Christchurch as a way of expressing their sorrow and support for all those affected by the mass shooting.

A wall of flowers spanning hundreds of metres are now being cleared. The tributes are being sorted by a team of volunteers, some are being kept for history. Wilted flowers are being separated and composted so they can be set aside and used by the city's mosques.

"These tributes now form part of our collective history and we want to handle them all with care and respect," Christchurch Botanic Gardens director Wolfgang Bopp said.


The official Victim Support donation page for the victims and their families has raised more than $10.1 million. Several other pages have also been set up and have raised thousands of dollars.

A You Are Us/Aroha Nui concert was held in Auckland on Saturday to raise money for shooting victims. Another is planned for Christchurch on Wednesday and similar shows are planned for Wednesday and Thursday (US time) in Jersey City and Los Angeles.


Twelve victims remain in hospital, one of whom is still fighting for their life in intensive care.

Seven are in Christchurch Hospital, six of them stable and one still in ICU in a critical condition. Another four are at Burwood Hospital in Christchurch.

A 4-year-old girl, Alen Alsati, who was transported to Starship Children's Hospital in Auckland is in a stable condition. She has brain damage and her father says while she has made a little bit of progress, she can't speak, see, talk or eat by herself.