It has taken me a bit of time to work out what I would write in this post. By now the majority of people who will read this post know what happened in Sydney just over 24 hours ago. And I would be lying if I did not say that the incident has shook me up.
I was never in any danger, Sydney is a big city after all with over 4.5 million residents. But I think the siege hit home because at one time I was close to the cafe where the tragedy occurred. I worked directly opposite the Lindt cafe for over three years. Out of all the surrounding cafes, this was my favourite. After all, the Lindt cafe does the best hot chocolate in Sydney. That’s my pick me up – not coffee. Of course, it is stocked with all sorts of chocolate goodness as well. I would love meeting up with co-workers for a sneaky chocolate snack in the afternoon, in the guaranteed knowledge that the Lindt cafe would have a dark chocolate goodie. And a workers in the cafe would always hand me the snack with a smile.
On the day when the criminal assailant walked in, we received an email informing us that something was going on with our office across from the cafe, and the physical lock down procedures were put in place. I sensed something was wrong. Then the TV in the kitchen started to show our NSW Police Officers deploying around the cafe. I have worked very closely with the Police in the past, and I knew immediately that I was watching the Tactical Response Group in action – things were serious. I have the utmost respect and admiration for the NSW Police and the job they do. They deal with bad and the ugly on a daily basis, and very seldom the good. What was unfolding before my eyes was bad. I rang my wife to tell her to stay at home and not meet me for lunch. My wife was confused, until she saw the TV coverage. My son was upset that he would not see me for lunch, but my wife lovingly shielded him from the real reason. At the time no one knew whether this was a coordinated and planned attack – or the act of a lone deranged criminal with a completely shattered moral compass.
Most people now know how the events tragically unfolded…
It all came to an end while most of Sydney slept. We woke up to the awful news. As I kitted up to go cycling training, I could not clear my head. To say this totally clouded my thoughts is an understatement. As I pushed the pedals I could not think of anything else, and my session clearly reflected that. I was not the only one, we were all collectively flat. I was sad, angry, empty, all at once. I waited for any news of who the hostages were, and whether any of them were my old work colleagues. As the reports and the names came in, thankfully none of them were.
Putting it in perspective, this is not about me. Two people lost their lives to a criminal who should have been locked up – not out on bail. He likely planned the murder of his ex-wife and was up on 40 counts of sexual and indecent assault. He took the p!ss when he applied for asylum into Australia under false pretenses, and should never have been let into the country. Then when he got here, he actively fought against the fabric and foundations of our society – flaunting our faces incredulously in our own tolerance. Even when he got here he should have been extradited back to Iran because he was a criminal fraud over there. And all the while our NSW Police knew exactly his character and pleaded with our Legal system who failed to lock him away. He even smeared his own religion with his unconscionable actions, trying to tarnish thousands of Australians of the same faith.
It would be too easy to call this terrorism, the fact is that is was an evil crime.
While I read today about over 140 children who were killed by extremists in Pakistan, the tragedy of my own city is what is occupying my thoughts. I know enough about the world to know that this can happen in my home city. I am not that naive. But I can’t help but feel an indescribable loss. My city was attacked by one person who wanted to take down my fellow Sydneysiders, for no reason other than his own evil motives. My city fought back, and did not allow him the vehicle or platform, and people were hurt as a result.
For Sydney and all those who were dragged into this horrible ordeal, I say a quiet prayer. No photos, no hashtags, just a quiet prayer. And maybe one day I will be able to explain to my son and daughter the real reason why they could not meet me for lunch that day.