A year ago today a group of people were forged together. Some workmates, some acquaintances, but many of them strangers.
They were brought together on a day that changed Australia forever.
They were bonded by the tragic and terrifying actions of Man Haron Monis. Together the 17 of them spent 16 hours being held hostage. Two did not survive.
One year on after the deadly Lindt Café siege those who were there on the day are moving on, piecing back together their lives, coming to terms with why and creating a new life marked by the loss of a mother, a partner, forging friendships based on tragedy.
One year ago on December 15 Australia changed, Australia felt terror for the first time.
We know now that the actions of Man Haron Monis whilst declared a terrorist incident was most likely, as stated by siege inquest witness Rodger Shanahan, an associate professor at the Australian National University, the result of “a person with mental health issues acting on his own personal grudges”.
But no matter the reasons what it did do was change lives.
Three children lost their mother, Katrina Dawson- the youngest just four-years old at the time.
The life of Thomas Zinn was torn apart when his long term partner of 14-years, cafe manager Tori Johnson was killed.
Today as we remember the events of a year ago, as we mourn their lives we can find hope in two touching tributes by two of the hostages.
Two babies born in the wake of the tragedy. Two babies whose pregnant mothers survived the siege.
Julie Taylor was 19 weeks pregnant when she and fellow barrister Katrina Dawson were taken hostage. While Ms Taylor made it out alive, her close friend Katrina was shot during the 16-hour siege, and later tragically died from her injuries.
Ms Taylor described Katrina as “the most wonderful person I have ever met” and in a beautiful tribute to her friend she named her daughter, born in March this year Emily Katrina.
Today the family of Katrina Dawson have released a statement:
“This is a very difficult time for all of us at the Katrina Dawson Foundation as we approach the first anniversary of Katrina’s death. We continue to mourn her loss deeply. But we will also celebrate her life and the extraordinary contribution she made to the lives of so many others.
Katrina’s spirit lives on through the work of the Foundation; the scholarships and mentoring initiatives it will provide to inspiring young women; and the support of so many generous individuals and organisations.
Our continued thanks to those who have chosen to support the Katrina Dawson Foundation. We are incredibly grateful.”
We can't imagine what the children or partner of Katrina Dawson feel today but we can find some peace in the beautiful mark of respect by Julie Taylor.
For another hostage, Harriette Denny, who was 14 weeks pregnant at the time of the siege, her daughter, Billie has helped her heal after the life-changing day.
Harriette worked as a Lindt Café barista and had not told any of her friends or family about her pregnancy except co-worker Joel Herat, who was also taken hostage at the café. Earlier this year Harriette told 60 Minutes that she was convinced she was going to die the night of the siege.
“I was very grateful that I was able to experience the pure love and happiness of being pregnant so at that time I remember thinking if he shoots me, as long as I don’t feel it or see it coming I’d be okay with it.”
Harriette Denny speaks on 60 Minutes.
But Harriette was one of the very lucky ones who did survive and in an exclusive interview with Woman’s Day she has revealed how she has honoured the man she says saved her life that night. Harriette and her partner, Jorge Bonora have named Joel Herat as the godfather of her baby, Billie.
“It’s such an important decision, but for us it was so easy,” Harriette told Woman’s Day.
“Joel held my hand from the beginning. He comforted me through the whole thing. I remember us sitting knee-to-knee, him whispering to me.”
He also saved her life grabbing her hand as she tripped and fell as they ran from the café, pulling her to safety.
For all those whose lives were broken irreparably last year today we think of you.
Today we think of Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson. We think of their families and loved ones. We think of Katrina Dawson's children.
And we think of these two babies born in the shadow of such fear and in them feel hope rather than terror for the year ahead.