It was in that time that New Zealand — one of the most peaceful, safe and stable countries in the world — joined a club no one wants to belong to.
Terrorist attacks and mass shootings are not words ordinarily linked to New Zealand, where crime rates are low and the police don’t even routinely carry firearms.
Australian Brenton Tarrant changed all that with his deadly rampage. On Friday, 49 people were confirmed dead and 48 others, including children, were being treated for injuries ranging from minor to critical.
Some will require multiple surgeries, and the NZ Government has warned the death toll could rise.
Dressed in army fatigues, the 28-year-old from NSW was chillingly calm as he executed dozens of people as they prayed in Christchurch mosques.
Before the carnage began, Tarrant drove to the mosque in his beige station wagon. He was surrounded by ammunition and weapons he’d placed on the passenger seat and in the boot, along with petrol canisters.
He had a helmet cam on so the whole world would see and hear the evil he was about to inflict.
He filmed his sickening killing spree, showing off a fern motif on a bag so treasured by Kiwis and declaring “lets get this party started” as the murders began.
The first victim was shot before he even managed to get to the front door of the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Riccarton, a quiet leafy Christchurch suburb.
It’s unknown how many people were inside — one estimate was as many as 500 could have been there. The only thing that is known for certain as the they would have had no warning of the terror that was about to unfold.
There was a desperate scamble to get out. People tried to run for their lives and hide anywhere they could. One person who was inside told Radio New Zealand even the prayer mats people had been worshipping were used as a method of defence.
Amid the screams and confusion, they also smashed windows to scramble to safety. Some escaped with their lives but many did not.
Forty one of those known to be killed so far died at the Masjid Al Noor mosque. But the killing wasn’t over.
Tarrant was inside for three minutes. Out of ammunition, he went back to his car and reloaded before he went inside and continued shooting, his livestream capturing every excruciating moment.
Injured people reportedly were begging for their lives and many were shot more than once. a seven-year-old boy was believed to be one of the victims.
Witnesses later recalled the horror — of children being shot, of families being ripped apart.
“My wife is dead,” one man sobbed while another said of his desperate escape: “There were bodies all over me.”
Anwar Alsaleh told Stuff.co.nz he was in the bathroom washing his hands when the shooting began. He hid and frantically called emergency services.
“There’s a big massacre, please send help and call the police because they’re continuously shooting,” he told the ambulance service.
He said he heard the gunman say: “F…ing Muslims we’re going to kill you today.”
Indian restaurant manager Prakash Sapkota, whose business Arjee Bhajee is around the corner from the Masjid Al Noor mosque, said he first realised something was wrong when he started seeing barefoot people running past covered in blood.
“I was at the counter and we started seeing a lot of people with no shoes running and crying with a lot of blood,” he told News Corp Australia.
“People were scared. We had to close our shop and were are staying here until we can leave.”
He said one of his friends was in the mosque but escaped the shooting by hiding in the toilets.
“He saw many of his friends dead on the ground,” Mr Sapkota said.
The video only ended, after 17 minutes, after he drove away at speed.
Tarrant was already on his way to his next destination. But he wasn’t finished with the people of Riccarton.
Local media report he was seen to pull over and shoot a Muslim in his 70s in the chest. The fate of that victim is unclear; stunned bystanders rushed to help him as Tarrant carried on driving.
His next stop was the Linwood Mosque. Many of the people in his sights were elderly people who could not quickly escape.
Syed Mazharuddin witnessed the attack and said he heard gunshots and could tell the shooter was very close, reported The New Zealand Herald.
About 70 people were kneeling in prayer as Tarrant burst through the door. The elderly were the first he came across.
A man inside the mosque bravely tried to tackle him.
“The young guy who usually takes care of the mosque … he saw an opportunity and pounced on [the gunman] and took his gun,” Mazharuddin said.
“The hero tried to chase and he couldn’t find the trigger in the gun … he ran behind him but there were people waiting for him in the car and he fled.”
Some of the victims had wounds to their chests — others had been shot in the head.
Another man inside the mosque said: “I was thinking that he must run out of bullets. I was basically waiting for that and praying to God, oh God please let this guy run out of bullets.”
Others inside said the shooting wasn’t particularly targeted — any victim would do. it went on for 20 minutes.
An unidentified man was quoted on New Zealand television saying his life had been saved by someone who was standing near the door and told him “no don’t go out there”.
The witness said soon after the gunman shot the man he’d been talking to dead.
By the time it was over, glass and debris lay strewn around while people lay dead and dying in pools of blood.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed the country’s terror alert had been raised to high, the first time it had done so.
Ms Ardern said New Zealanders were not chosen for this act of terror because they condone racism but rather that they represent diversity, kindness, compassion and a refuge for those who need it.
“And those values, I can assure you, will not and cannot be shaken by this attack,” she said.
“You may have chosen us, but we are utterly reject and condemn you,” she said defiantly,
“They have chosen to make New Zealand their home. It is their home. They are us. The person who has perpetrated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand.
“There is no place in New Zealand for such extreme and unprecedented acts of violence,” she added.
New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush told reporters Tarrant and others in his car were taken into custody amid extraordinary acts of bravery.
A witness watched the dramatic arrest unfold.
He told the Herald watched armed police “hit the car into the kerb” and then jump out “so fast”, guns drawn, he said.
“They pulled three guns, maybe four, from the car and then they pulled the man out right over the handbrake … it was pretty scary.”
Two police officers, guns drawn, approached the car and one pulled the man onto the ground as the second officer provided cover.
As the person, in dark clothing, was dragged from the car, video shows one of the officers appearing to strike the man with his weapon.
Mr Bush said police recovered several firearms from both the Linwood Avenue and Deans Ave shooting scenes.
Two explosive devices were found on one vehicle, Mr. Bush said.
None of the arrested people had been on any terrorism watch, including in Australia.
Mr Bush said he has “no intelligence” on a potential attack on St Patrick’s Day threat that has been reported. He was not aware of Friday’s attacks being linked to any other terrorist plots.
But he warned mosques not to open their doors “until you hear from us again”.
Ms Ardern, who as Prime Minister oversees New Zealand’s domestic intelligence service, confirmed four people were arrested — one is not thought to be linked to the attacks, one is Tarrant who will appear in court this morning charged with murder, and two others.
The role, if any, the two others played is unclear.
Late last night as the world reacted with horror to the massacre and New Zealanders struggled to understand how it could have happened, family and friends of the injured gathered at Christchurch Hospital.
Wailing and crying could be heard at regular intervals throughout the night, a person who was there told news.com.au.
Some could be seen leaving, bandaged but alive, others arrived grim faced and bracing themselves for the worst.
Like the rest of the country, they will be hoping there is not more bad news to come.