“Throw three handfuls,” Sheikh Amir announced over the loudspeaker, referring to the Muslim tradition of tossing dirt into the grave. “Please, brothers, just use your hands so everyone can participate.”
Backhoes had dug the graves; there were 10 rows of rectangular holes.
At the edge, two young men embraced, paused, then embraced again. Mourners later said there were so many people that they could only throw one handful of dirt, not three.
“It’s just so heartbreaking,” Shazia Bano, 35, said as she walked to her car.
A few hours later, at 5 p.m., it was time for more.
Thicker clouds had gathered, the wind had picked up and the crowd looked a bit smaller. One by one, four more bodies were prayed over and carried to their final resting places.
There was Junaid Ismail, 36, a Christchurch native who worked at the family business, a dairy. He had a wife and three children.
There was Ashraf Ali, a longtime Christchurch resident originally from Fiji, and Lilik Abdul Hamid, originally from Indonesia. Cheerful and well-liked, he had been an aircraft maintenance engineer with Air New Zealand for 16 years.
Finally, there was a man the police had identified but did not release his name. He was the first one killed — the victim linked to the one murder charge currently laid against the suspect, Brenton H. Tarrant, who is expected to face many more.
He was laid to rest surrounded as the sun faded by those he loved and those he barely knew. Christchurch, finally, was beginning to move on.