ChCHStrap

COMMENT:

I'm sitting in our Napier office, writing the column this week. I was in Hawke's Bay MCing at the Horse of the Year show — just as I was this time last year.

The Horse of the Year is an extraordinary event — about 1400 riders, 1800 horses and up to 50,000 visitors make their way to Showgrounds Hawke's Bay Tomoana and spend five days competing, networking and catching up with friends from around the country and across the ditch.

Last year, I was sitting in the glorious Hawke's Bay sunshine ringside, watching New Zealand's up-and-coming show-jumpers. A woman tapped me on the shoulder and said, "You work for the radio, don't you? Do you know anything about someone being shot in Christchurch?"

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A man interrupted, looking at the screen of his mobile phone. "It's not one person," he said, his voice dull with shock. "They're saying 10."

And that was the first I heard of the Christchurch mosque shootings.

People visiting from Canterbury got on their phones immediately, checking on family and friends, and snippets of news and information were patchworked into a semblance of an account of what seemed to be happening.

A shooter armed with an automatic rifle had run amok in a mosque during Friday prayers. No one knew how many people had been killed or injured and nobody knew if there were more shooters. Just like everyone else at the showgrounds, I was shocked and appalled. My first instinct was to get home, back to Auckland.

I rang to see if I could get an earlier flight home and went straight to the airport.

Messages of love and support after the Christchurch mosque attacks. Photo / Mike Scott
Messages of love and support after the Christchurch mosque attacks. Photo / Mike Scott

There I saw cricket commentator Ian Smith, who was waiting to see whether the test between the Black Caps and Bangladesh was still going ahead in Wellington in light of the shootings.

We are contemporaneous and we agreed the world was a far different place to the one we'd grown up in. We couldn't believe the sort of shootings we despaired of in other countries had happened here, in New Zealand.

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Everybody I encountered on the way home had the same expression I had — stunned and shell-shocked.

When I got home I wanted to keep driving — to head to Hokianga, my happy place and my safe place. But then I realised that nowhere was safe any more.

New Zealand had allowed a man to unleash hell upon a targeted group of people. They were men, women and children. It is alleged most had their backs to him and were on their knees and praying.

Within hours, the first messages started coming through on Facebook. This is not us, the memes said. Rubbish. As someone who works in talkback and gets to hear and read the unfiltered thoughts and opinions of a diverse range of our community, this sort of hatred is alive and well among a small section of the community. I never thought that it would translate into murder on our shores, but it did.

That the accused gunman is an Australian is neither here nor there. Fifty one people were killed, 49 wounded and families were torn apart.

I don't think I am as naive or as wilfully optimistic as I was a year ago. I certainly don't feel complacent about New Zealand being a safe haven. So many lives were changed in the worst possible way a year ago in Canterbury but the dignity and goodness of the survivors and the way the community responded to the tragedy makes me dare to hope that in the end, good will always triumph.

• Kerre McIvor Mornings, Newstalk ZB, weekdays 9am-noon.