Christchurch attack: 'The heartache is very real' - being far from home when your city is hurting

Shock. Horror. Disbelief. Sadness. Guilt. Bewilderment. Numb.

I’ve been asked so often in the past 24 hours what it’s like being a Cantabrian living in London, so far from home at a time when the city and community I love (and call home) is facing the worst atrocity in our nation’s history.

It’s actually so hard to articulate how far from home I feel right now. The heartache is very real.

Both William (Europe cameraman) and I call Christchurch home, we have run/walked/driven past those mosques hundreds of times, even filmed inside one of them.

To see our refugee community at the centre of a crime almost unrivalled in modern times in the western world (certainly down under), is hard to comprehend.

My husband was a Christchurch police officer - and seeing pictures of his colleagues broadcast on international news networks is surreal.

To find that William and I (the Europe bureau) are now garnering international reaction from world leaders about something at home feels very very wrong.

I also personally feel guilty (I know that might seem strange) but I feel guilty at not being at home right now to support my city, the refugee community, our family and friends in the emergency services and medical professions and also to support our media colleagues who again are facing the challenge of reporting on an unspeakable tragedy and processing (and juggling) all the personal emotions, challenges, fatigue and professional demands which come with reporting on something like this at home.

The city was struck by natural disaster eight years ago, and to find we are again mourning unfathomable loss, this time of a man-made kind, is impossible to digest.

I’m finding myself having conversations in black cabs, supermarket queues, outside mosques and on the streets of London that I never thought I’d ever have - trying to defend Kiwis and explain to people this is not who we are - we are not a hate filled nation.

I have found myself personally apologising to people for what happened.

But I’m also having the conversation with people (far more often) whether it be with international leaders, local Imams, British media or joe public that they too are outraged, hurt and horrified for us.

London is a city that knows the fear and vulnerability in the aftermath of terror. It knows how racism divides communities. It knows the importance of standing together and not being beaten by extremists.

But it’s scared. So many from the London Muslim community have told me they fear this Christchurch attack may embolden further attacks on them around the world, in their safe havens and houses of worship.

One woman told me today through tears that her 11-year-old daughter this morning asked her "why do so many people hate us".

How do you answer that? She’s now frightened to pray in her local mosque. This renewed fear is very real. As a result, security has been stepped up around London mosques.

The ripples of Christchurch’s terror are being felt half a world away.

But the international community stands ready to help New Zealand however it can. From providing intelligence support (learnt from decades of experience in investigating terrorist incidents), to marching in solidarity, the world is keen to help.

Witnessing 5000 people today marching against racism in London and to see them stop outside New Zealand House and pay tribute to the Christchurch victims was very moving.

They say, "an attack anywhere is an attack everywhere". Many other countries are hurting too, and they want Christchurch to know it stands beside them in solidarity.

That is helping to relieve the pain of feeling so far from a place I naively had thought would be immune from such far-right extremism. If this can happen at the bottom of the world – it appears nowhere is immune.

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    The many Kiwis there are banding together to share their nation's pain, along with locals, officials and royalty. Source: 1 NEWS