Feature: Unyielding taxi drivers give free rides after Christchurch terror attacks

Source: Xinhua| 2019-03-16 19:08:55|Editor: xuxin
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by Levi J Parsons

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand, March 16 (Xinhua) -- Just 24 hours after New Zealand's worst ever terror attacks, the city of Christchurch has remained defiant.

Religious institutions opened their doors to all faiths as a symbol of peace, businesses chose to stay open as a sign of strength and the people of the garden city decided to come together in a show of unity.

While Friday's tragic events that killed 49 people at the hands of a crazed gunman have left the usually peaceful community inconsolably shocked and saddened, on Saturday there's also been some inspiring stories of courage and kindness.

With the city in lockdown, his wife and young children terrified at home as they kept up-to-date with Friday's unfolding events on social media, taxi driver Jagmeet Singh offered free rides to anyone in need.

"We received a message from the taxi companies to go to the airport and wait there (for safety)," he told Xinhua.

"So we were watching Facebook and listening to the radio to keep updated minute-by-minute."

With the seriousness of the situation escalating, Singh received a phone call from his wife.

"I went home because I have young children to look after and they were very scared and my wife was scared as well," he said.

But when the lockdown was lifted around 5:30 p.m. local time, Singh decided he would go back out on the roads and help people.

"I live around Shirley Boys High School ... many parents who were there to collect their children were weeping, they were crying!" he said.

"I thought I would go out and help them so I asked the students if they needed a ride."

"It felt risky (leaving) my wife and young children at home alone but people were wanting help and I decided to go."

With scores of people stranded at the airport as well as many other locations throughout the city, Christchurch cab drivers came together.

"We all decided to help the community, I thought I should give free rides to everyone," Singh said.

"There are only around 40-50 taxis in town, so we didn't stop until about 10:30 p.m. (local time). I went home around 11:00 p.m."

Affected personally by the horrific incident, Singh said a friend of his from Pakistan was among those killed in the attack.

"I moved here from India and I have been living here for about eight years now and until yesterday we have never had any problems," Singh said. "Everyone is really good here."

But while the gunman's motives appear to be racially motivated, it hasn't dampened the hearts of migrants in the culturally diverse city.

Although deeply saddened by yesterday's events, Chinese restaurant owner Zhong Ansun explained to Xinhua that at a time like this, simply staying open can be very important for the morale of the community.

"This is a friendly place, our staff can't believe it," he said.

"Yesterday I was nervous. When it happened we all had to stay inside the building, we couldn't even pick up our kids."

"But we must stay open today because our location is the center of the city and there are many tourists here and we need to help them."

While the emotional scars of Friday's heinous attacks are likely to remain with the people of Christchurch for generations to come, it appears the city's resolve is unlikely to be undermined.

Proving its resilience back in 2011 when an earthquake killed 185 people, Christchurch will once again look to rebuild itself in the face of another painful tragedy.