Former Pendleton resident Mandi Miller left her home in Christchurch, New Zealand, for a musical gig at a festival on the north end of the island when a friend called. The news of mass shootings at two mosques in her adopted hometown left her “emotionally hungover” along with many others.
“New Zealand is like a fairly land,” she said via a video interview Friday morning. “We would never ever have expected that to happen.”
Each new report and social media post tallied the death toll all the way up to 49.
“It’s been harrowing for everyone,” she said, calling the killings the “most devastating violation.”
Miller has lived in Christchurch for 21 years and during that span the coastal city has grown to more than 400,000 people, including thousands of immigrants. She said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern summed up the sentiment in Christchurch regarding the Muslim victims: “They are us, they are all citizens of New Zealand.”
The murders, then, Miller said, were violations against all New Zealanders, not just the Muslim community.
She emphasized just how out-of-nowhere the slayings felt. New Zealand and Christchurch have a reputation for being safe. Most violence involves fist or, at worst, knives. Gun laws are strict, and people don’t pack guns in public, including police. She said Americans who emigrate there often cite safety as a top reason for their move.
“We’re not used to any kind of public attacks,” she said.
That reputation seems to have drawn these terrorists, and New Zealand politician are talking about making the country’s strict gun laws even stricter.
Miller said it was good to express what she felt. She also wiped tears from her eyes.