A year ago today marks the day my workplace was locked down as the horrendous events unfolded in Sydney’s Martin Place during the Lindt Café Sydney Siege, where a lone gunman, Man Haron Monis, held ten customers and eight employees hostage.
I later learned that four of my fellow employees were begging for their lives, after having simply popped out of the office that morning to grab a cup of coffee.
I’m not one for public spectacles and I prefer to avoid crowds but, in the days that followed the Lindt Café siege, I had an innate need to visit the impromptu public memorial that had sprung up in the Martin Place pedestrian mall. I was mourning the loss of two innocent lives, the horrors inflicted on the survivors and also a more personal impact of experiencing an evil that had scratched its claws across my city.
Just walking up Sydney’s bustling George Street that day, I could already tell that things were different. While there was the usual lunchtime throng of shoppers and people out for lunch, it was very obvious that there was another flow of people coming off buses and trains, all heading in the same direction. Many of them were carrying flowers. Some held elaborate bunches, others were a simple collection of colourful Gerberas.
Mourning in that public place with hundreds of other people was an unexpectedly intimate experience. As I stood at the barrier, breathing in the fragrance of thousands of different flowers laid down in respect, I was enveloped by a communal silence. Everyone stood there quietly. It was a mass reflection where words simply weren’t necessary. Behind us, there was the constant movement of people walking through the pedestrian thoroughfare, but in that exclusively quiet place, I joined strangers in silently marking our shared loss, shock and heartache.