Kate Hawkesby: On NZ's darkest day our PM had her finest hour

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Monday, 18 March 2019, 11:09a.m.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern lays flowers while finance minister Grant Robertson looks on at the Kilbirnie Mosque on March 17, 2019 in Wellington, New Zealand. Photo / Getty Images

On our darkest day, I thought our Prime Minister had her finest hour. 

 

In the presence of inexplicable inhumanity, she was human. Compassionate, and inclusive, which was exactly what we needed. 

 

You will, by now, be familiar with her words on Friday, that we were “not a target because we are a safe harbour for those who hate, we were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, because we are an enclave for extremism. We were chosen for the very fact that we are none of those things.”  

 

She utterly rejected the gunman and his agenda of hate.

 

As the abject horror of what was happening in Christchurch unfolded before our disbelieving eyes, most of us felt pain, sorrow and shock. 

 

How could this be happening to us? Here?

 

But as the hours ticked by in the aftermath, I also felt a deep sense of pride in our country, in our response to terror.

 

Amidst one cowardly act of hate, there were so many acts of bravery and love.

 

The swiftness of our Police force, the bravery in the officers who took down the shooter, the medical teams who assisted the victims, St Johns, the pathologists, the nurses the doctors, the principals, teachers and administrators who sat for hours with terrified students in lockdown.

 

Many who would’ve been parents themselves and unable to get to their own children. 

 

The public. The loving and concerned fellow citizens who took people in, helped them, waited with the injured, made phone calls, rallied together. 

 

The millions of dollars in donations raised for victims and their families. 

 

The outpouring of generosity and kindness, which in the immediate hours after this terror, showed who we really are in this country. 

 

A kind compassionate people. 

 

The Prime Minister was right. This act was not who we are. Terror is not who we are. 

 

It came to our doorstep and that’s shocking, but the outpouring of love and support and practical care offered in the hours and days afterwards, that’s who we are. That made me proud to be a Kiwi. 

 

My sister and brother in law live in Christchurch. My niece and nephew spent four hours at separate schools in lockdown. My sister was unable to contact one of her children. It was terrifying for all of them. 

 

They’ve lived through devastating earthquakes, and now this. It seems so unfair and yet terror is everywhere, how could we not have expected it would get to us eventually? 

 

Our innocence was lost last Friday. But the essence of who we are was not.

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