This feels very, very close. Because it is.

It feels too much to bear. The senselessness of it. The horror. The utter tragedy of the attack at Westfield Bondi Junction that ended six innocent lives on an ordinary Saturday afternoon and traumatised countless more.

When something terrible happens, our instinct is often to look for reasons why it couldn’t be us. Why we are somehow immune or at least removed from that truly awful thing. I would never do that or go there. That would never be me. That could never happen to me.

It’s a form of self-protection really, an emotional buffer wrapped up in the desperate reassurance of denial. A way to distance ourselves from the brutal reality of random tragedy and the vulnerability in which we all live, all of the time.

Not this time, though.

Who could hear this news and find a way to distance themselves. We have all been in a shopping centre on a Saturday afternoon, buying groceries or activewear. Some new pyjamas for our baby. Looking at an expensive handbag. Buying a serum or some new shoes. Going for a wander.

We have all spent a normal Saturday afternoon doing normal things in our normal lives. There but for the grace of God go all of us. It feels very, very close. Because it is.

I have long referred to Westfield Bondi Junction as ‘my happy place’. It's become a bit of a joke but it's true. I love it there. Like thousands of others, it’s where I go at least once a week for distraction, for solace and for utility, usually on a Saturday afternoon. Like thousands of others, I go there to wander around and do errands, to shop for clothes and groceries. Like Ash Good and her baby did. Like Dawn Singleton. Like the three other women and one man who were murdered, like Ash. And like all the people — mostly women it seems — who were injured. Was this monster targetting women? Is that what this story is? Again? Must we add shopping centres to the endless list of places where we are not safe? Where we can get no respite from the spectre of violence against us? Police have not yet confirmed a motive for the attack but it certainly seems that way. The anger will come. But right now, it is shock and grief and utter, utter disbelief at the vicious cruelty of one evil man on an ordinary Saturday afternoon in a place so many of us seek out for respite, for pleasure, for socialisation, for fun.
Shopping centres hold a very special place for women, you see. We are meant to be safe there.


I know every inch of that shopping centre. Every shop where someone was attacked and killed, every escalator and landing where that maniac roamed, ending and upending the lives of all those unlucky enough to be there at that moment, on that day, in that place. 

It could have been any of us. Perhaps that’s what makes this so very shocking, so impossible to process. There is no reassurance. No solace. No distance. This was not America. This was not a war zone. This was a suburban shopping mall in a country where this kind of thing just doesn’t happen. Except it did happen.

Without the empty comfort of distance, with the horror too much to bear, we look for the tiniest cracks of light. The heroes. The helpers. The humanity. The bravery of strangers.

The police officer who was patrolling the area alone and ran towards a crazed murderer with a knife. She didn’t know if he was the only attacker and she ran towards him anyway. She saved lives. She stopped the carnage.

The dying mother who thrust her wounded baby into the arms of two men, knowing that her child’s best chance of survival lay in the hands of those strangers. That brave woman. Those brave men.


It’s unimaginable, as it should be. We should never have to imagine the acts of evil and horror that have occurred. But they did occur and the people who were there had no choice but to respond instantly in ways that are almost impossible to fathom.

The first responders who ran into that building to save lives while everyone else was running for their lives in the opposite direction. The shoppers who grabbed clothes to stem the flow of blood from strangers. The words of comfort whispered among people who didn’t know one another but whose countless acts of kindness and bravery pushed humanity into the untold horror wrought by one evil man on a very ordinary Saturday afternoon.

The sales assistants who hid people in storerooms. The father who had the foresight to cover the eyes of his children as he ushered them to safety. Because the victims aren’t just those who died and were injured. There were thousands of people who ran and hid in terror and saw things nobody should ever see.

There is nothing to alleviate the tragedy of what happened. But we continue to look for small things that help. The hope. The humanity. The bravery. The tiny, tiny mercies. 

Thank God the baby is alive. Thank God that monster acted alone. Thank God it appears not to have been terrorism. Thank God he didn't have a gun.

The consolation is almost imperceptible. Because there are six people who should have gone home to their families after a very ordinary afternoon out shopping. Six individuals whose names will be forever linked to a random tragedy. And there is no way on earth to make anyone feel OK about that. Our hearts are quite simply, broken.

Feature image: Getty.