I have written and re-written this post at least 10 times in the last 3 hours.
I have been mulling over what to say, and how to feel and thinking about what the families and friends of the hostages who made it out alive but also of those of Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson must be feeling right now; and the truth is, I can’t.
We, as a nation, will never be the same. Just as family, friends and acquaintances will never be the same after some facing the possibility and others the reality, of losing those they love to a senseless crime like this.
It is all over social media and I am certainly not the first or last person to say it, but I feel like it needs to be said again: Terror failed today. It claimed the lives of two innocents, causing unfathomable pain and grief. It has enacted fear and violence. But it has failed.
Beyond what occurred within the exclusion zone at Martin Place, we have shown that we are strong and we protect our own. We will forever protect our own. This has not divided us, and it will not destroy us.
I was 6 years old when American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the North and South Towers on September 11. I remember being sat down by my Year 2 teacher and I remember that my mum was very quiet that night when we were watching the television coverage. Beyond that, there wasn’t much I felt, because I wasn’t old enough to understand what to feel.
13 years later, the story is very different.
These people are the people I share my city with and while you cannot equate the value of two human lives in comparison to one another, we as a nation have never felt this degree of threat so close to home. I attended school with one of the hostages and while I haven’t seen or spoken to him in a great deal of time. The fear that I felt knowing that he was in there is something I didn’t think I could feel. No words can explain the fear that we felt because those held could have been a colleague, friend, relative or school mate.
About 25 hours ago, I checked my phone, I wanted to see what my friends were up to on Facebook and the first update I saw was from a close friend of mine reading:
“The Lindt cafe in Martin Place has been held up. Multiple hostages have been taken, and are being held with their hands in the air in the window of the cafe. A flag has been displayed and Martin Place and surrounding blocks have been shut down. Stay safe, everyone.”
I remember freezing in the toy section of Target and looking around to see why the scores of people doing their Christmas shopping weren’t making a fuss. A woman next to me had just hung up the phone and was telling her young daughter that “Daddy would be a little bit longer because he was stuck in traffic on George St in the city and that the police were helping the cars get home”.
The following few hours were a game of checking Twitter, calling my family to make sure no one was in the city, messaging my mum incessantly to make sure her office building was being monitored effectively and that she was okay, messaging my friends to make sure no one was going into the city. There is nothing more effective at instilling fear than making people feel like they don’t know when or where something awful could happen.
I have spent the last few hours trying to make sense of what has happened and I can’t.
I am not a person of significance to this city. My name isn’t on any buildings, I don’t control the way that we carry out the law, I don’t broadcast information to be consumed for the benefit of the masses (yet), but I am a child of this amazing city and a proud Australian. What has happened in the last 24 hours is unfathomable because it could have happened to anyone. Anyone who has grown up here or anywhere in Australia knows that we are good people. We are kind and considerate and when things get tough, we band together.
The awful condemnation of the Islamic community in light of this attack is as senseless as the attack itself. To think that this attack is a reflection of the people within the peaceful Australian Islamic community is to be a bigoted, hateful and un-Australian human being. This is not a reflection of these people. The fact that #illridewithyou has gone viral is a blessing. The fact it was necessary at all however, it concerning. We know that this was carried out by someone who was clearly sick and twisted. We know that the Muslim community of Australia is as much as part of our nation as anyone else. Regardless of whether you wear religious dress or a singlet and shorts with thongs, you are Australian and we support you.
I will never forget this day. No Australian can.
We will remember this as the day that we as a nation changed forever.
To the family and friends of Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson, the innocent lives lost; I cannot begin to understand the pain that you are feeling, nor would I presume to. Your loved ones will never be forgotten, they will forever be in the hearts and the minds of Australians as two ordinary individuals who acted extraordinarily. May they find peace and may they live on in your hearts.