The following post was written by a dear friend of mine from Sydney Australia, Laura White. Laura is a longtime friend and colleague, and a very proud Sydneysider. Laura, like many others were deeply affected by the horror of the Sydney Siege, the shocking loss of two innocent lives, and the forever-changed climate of a once untouchable Sydney.
As a former Sydneysider myself, I feel a very deep connection to Sydney, and all of Australia for that matter. For many years, this was my home; these were my friends; this was the place I raised my kids, worked, played and experienced real life.
The Sydney Siege, and the unfolding of events on live television rattled me to the core. Initially very angry and disillusioned by the wretches of humanity, I read Laura’s words and they impacted me deeply. I really wanted to share them with you.
I went to town tonight.
A week out from Christmas, you’d expect Thursday night shopping to be a bit manic. I walked through Pitt St Mall with it’s noise and bustle, shoppers and carolers and I felt joyous and Christmassy. I do have photos to share but not today.
I walked down to Martin Place and as I walked I wondered what I’d find and how I would react. I’ve seen the overhead photos of the flowers in Martin Place; I watched the coverage; I was heading home and on the phone when my friend interrupted and said, people have run out of the cafe as he watched live on TV. I cried happy tears then.
I turned the corner from Pitt St to Martin Place and stopped to stare. There was a huge number of people from all nationalities in front of me, silent and solemn taking in what I was experiencing for the first time. The outpouring of grief and disbelief.
A tent has been constructed so that you can visit and write condolences; the flower garden which seems incredible from those overhead shots I’ve seen has extended and has been subdivided into a new section. As I stood on the outside of this new section at least 50 people passed through laying more flowers in the few minutes that I stood there.
Others stood around the outside, silent, mourning, remembering, some with hands to their hearts and mouths and others with tissues. I cried.
I walked further up and found the entrance way to the main bed of flowers. I wondered at our giving nature and why we felt compelled to be there. I came for many reasons.
I came to pay my respects to those whose lives have been lost, I came to represent my many family and friends who cannot be in Sydney, but whose hearts and thoughts and disbelief have mirrored my own. I came to see with my own eyes, the actions and hearts of my fellow Australians. There are many reasons I went but these are just a few.
You can walk around the outside of the large flower bed as it too has been cordoned off. Single file you pass the flowers, notes, images, candles, representations of sorrow and heartache. Many stop to read the notes that are visible. Many took photos to immortalise this moment in our history.
I looked up and a single word in this sea of flowers stood out to me …. peace. So simple, so full of meaning. Other words started drawing my attention: love, remembrance, thoughts, sorrow. I pondered on love. I thought about the number of people I’ve met over the years, those that I’m friends with here on Facebook, those I’m connected to on LinkedIn and the many others that I’ve known over the years that are not on social media. I transferred this to Katrina and Tori and felt my gut wrench at the sheer number of people they would have known throughout the years between them who are now in mourning. Family, friends, acquaintances, past loves, school friends, the canteen staff, the butcher, the person who they unknowingly made smile as they walked down the street, the people they’ve randomly assisted over the years, the friend who found out when they saw your face pop up on screen as written in a note. It all counts, there are many who they would have touched. They have both now touched a city and a nation. Both gone too soon from all.
Did I spare a thought for the person who can be blamed for their deaths? Yes I did. It was not a thought of hatred. With this outlay of support and grief I wondered at the family and friends he left behind. He had to have been loved throughout his life and I wondered how they too are managing their grief. We all grieve. I hope that they too are receiving the support that they need to come to terms with these events…
‘Public Displays of Humanity’ is the title of the messages written in chalk further up in Martin Place. The bucket of chalk sits smack in the middle and people reverently walk to it, being mindful not to step on other messages as they go. The message are again of love, peace and remembrance; these really are they keys to understanding and acceptance for all of humanity are they not?….
There were quite a number of families there with their children in tow wandering amongst the flowers, reading the messages and writing in chalk. After thinking about it for awhile, I commend the parents who have brought their children. I imagine you really have to be living under a rock the past few days not to know about these events. Children of all people will be questioning and not comprehending what has happened as they generally haven’t been exposed to the brutality that can come with life and you are sharing life lessons and not shutting them out. They need to be there as much as we do.
They will remember after we are gone.