QUEBEC — Widows and loved ones of the victims of the Quebec City mosque shooting fought back tears on Saturday as they attended an emotional gathering in the place where six Muslim men lost their lives last January.
Almost one year after the tragedy, many of the victims and their family members who gathered at the Islamic cultural centre said they're still struggling to move on.
Safia Hamoudi, whose husband Khaled Belkacemi was one of the men who died on Jan. 29, 2017, said her mourning period isn't over yet.
She said she has trouble talking about what happened, but decided to attend Saturday's event because she knows people need to put a face to the victims.
"I've been approached by a lot of media, but I just haven't had the energy to respond," she said in an interview.
More than 100 people attended the open house at the mosque, where the walls were lined with cards and messages of support from all over the world.
Thouria Nafa, the wife of one of the survivors, said her husband didn't attend the gathering with her because it was still too overwhelming for him.
"It's really emotional. It's really something," she said with tears in her eyes.
Mohamed El Hafid, who was at the mosque on the night of the shooting, said it was hard to be back in the same place a year later.
"We lost the sense of security that we had before. Unfortunately, we are marked for life with that," he said.
The event was also attended by a few dozen members of the public, who were invited to look around the mosque and observe evening prayers.
Anne Pouliot and Clement Roberge, who came to the gathering from nearby Levis, said they wanted to express their support to the Muslim community a year after the shooting.
"The danger is that people forget quickly," Roberge said.
"It may not heal, it may not cure. But the moment, a year later, to commemorate, is certainly a relief for the community and the people involved," he added.
The gathering was part of four days of commemorative activities that have been organized to mark the one-year anniversary of the tragedy.
The events, which began Friday, include prayer services, a seminar and a spiritual rally that will bring together members of the Muslim, Jewish and First Nations communities.
The commemoration ends Monday evening — the anniversary of the shooting — when people are invited to bring flowers and candles to a vigil, which will take place outdoors close to the mosque.