When Dubai resident Heba Adeeb woke up on Friday morning, she thought another deadly earthquake has struck Christchurch, New Zealand.
She was stirred by hundreds of messages in her WhatsApp inbox but it was a more jolting news as her father was one of those shot by the lone gunman who attacked two mosques and left almost 50 people killed and scores more injured.
Still shocked by the incident, Heba told Khaleej Times over the phone that her father, Adeeb Sami, was shot in the back after he dived to cover his sons Abdullah and Ali from the gunfire.
Heba said his father and brothers were just having lunch after praying at the mosque, when the gunman started firing rapidly.
Sami used his body to cover his sons and was shot in the back. "He was rushed to the hospital and is now out of surgery but a CT scan is still needed to check if there was no internal bleeding and no vital organ was affected," Heba, who was crying inconsolably, told Khaleej Times.
Her father and mother, Sana, traveled to Christchurch to surprise Ali and Hamsa, who are twins, who turned 23 on Friday, a day that was supposed celebratory but turned into a national tragedy.
Heba, who was raised in Dubai, said her family left Iraq when she was five years to escape the war. Then they moved to New Zealand "because it's also a safe country like the UAE."
"We live in a very close-knit community, where everyone knows almost everyone. Violence was never heard of. I survived the earthquake in 2011 (where 185 people died) but this tragedy was worse than that," she said.
"How would you call someone who just entered a mosque, in broad daylight, and fired upon people who were just praying? Was he crazy? No, he was a terrorist," Heba said with much grief in her voice.
"Christchurch and New Zealand suffered a deplorable and unprecedented terrorist attack.this senseless act of violence against innocent people (is) one of New Zealand's darkest days," said New Zealand Ambassador to the UAE Matthew Hawkins.
Heba said she was able to speak to her father after the operation. She is taking the first flight from Dubai to New Zealand on Saturday. They were bit lucky because no one died in their family but the father of her bestfriend, Dana, was killed instantly at the mosque.
"My father is still in a critical condition and every time I watch the news on TV, I relive the horrors of the tragedy. I see my mother crying inconsolably. I can't understand how something like this (indiscriminate shooting) can happen. How can this happen?," she said.
Before ending the phone interview with Khaleej Times, Heba just learned that another family friend died: a 34-year-old father who left a one-and-half-year-old child and a pregnant wife.
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