Rahimi Ahmad was performing his Friday prayers at the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch when deafening gunfire shattered the silence.
As he tried to escape, the 40-year-old Malaysian was shot, and fell to the floor, bleeding from his wounds.
His 11-year-old son was playing outside. The boy took cover immediately, as a gunman fired many more rounds in the prayer hall.
Rahimi was among dozens of Muslims targeted by the gunman who fired indiscriminately at worshippers performing their prayers on Friday (Mar 15).
Forty-nine people were killed and dozens more were wounded in New Zealand’s worst ever mass shooting.
Most of them were either migrants, like Rahimi, who came to New Zealand for work or studies, or they were refugees who wanted to get as far away as possible from violence and danger.
As the world’s media reported the slaughter in Christchurch, Rahimi’s mother back home in Malaysia made frantic calls to check whether her son and his family were safe.
“I saw it on TV … and I had a feeling that he could be there, the TV announcer said Christchurch, so I knew,” Rokiah Mohammad, 65, told Reuters from her home in Penang.
A Malaysian official in New Zealand told the family that Rahimi was among the wounded taken to hospital. They were first told that he had been hit in the hip, but his wife later telephoned to say Rahimi was in a critical condition, and doctors were trying to remove several bullets from his body.
“He will be undergoing another surgery to remove bullets from his spine tomorrow,” Rahmi’s wife said during the phone call, as reported by the Malay Mail.
Police eventually tracked down and arrested the gunman.
Footage posted online, apparently taken by a gunman and posted online live as the attack unfolded, showed a man driving a vehicle, while listening to what sounded like European folk music.
After parking, he took two guns out of the trunk and walked a short distance to the mosque where he opened fire.
The footage of the killing spree lasted around five minutes. During that time the gunman shot worshippers repeatedly, leaving more than a dozen bodies in one room alone.
A member of a large Malaysian community living in the area, Rahimi was a regular at the mosque.
He worked as a technician at a milk factory while his wife Norazila Wahid, 39, studied medicine specialising in neurology.
Aside from his son, he also has a daughter aged nine.
The family have been living in New Zealand for four years. They were planning to return to Malaysia next year, once his wife finished her studies, Rokiah said.
“Last I heard from Rahimi was the day before yesterday,” Rokiah said. “He called often to check on us.”