One year ago today, I was holed up in my office near Martin Place. One year ago, as Floor Warden, I was trying to keep an office full of men and women calm in the face of a virtually unknown threat. One year ago, I had to send an SMS to my wife and children to let them know I was safe before they heard the news when they landed from an interstate trip.
The Martin Place siege, as it has come to be known, was a turning point in a lot of people’s lives. A colleague of mine today recounted that he’d always thought he’d be calm, cool and collected under any situation, but that he was shaken more than he cared to admit by a threat so close to work.
One year ago, a nutter with guns took over a coffee shop, barricaded himself and his hostages inside a centrally-located building, and plastered Daesh flags on the windows, sending the media sharks into a feeding frenzy and whipping up fears that a terrorist attack had occurred in our city.
One year ago, I was faced with the possibility that a friend of mine, who works in the police Tactical Respnse Group, may be putting his life on the line to save the hostages held within the Lindt Cafe. One year ago, these police officers sent SMS messages to their loved ones, fully expecting that their lives would be lain down for others.
One year ago, I was organising for my office mates to leave their workplace in pairs, to try and get out of the city safely by whatever means they could, to get back to worried spouses, to pick up children from school and day-care. As I walked with my two partners towards Circular Quay, the streets that were normally busy and filled with traffic and pedestrians were quiet and still. The stillness was only broken on Bridge Street by a group of teenagers, taking the opportunity to skateboard down a city road that would normally be inaccessible to them. The ferry ride out onto Sydney Harbour, and up into the Parramatta Rover is usually a peaceful and relaxing trip, from Sydney’s iconic skyline and harbour-side and along the river; the beauty was tinged with the fear that perhaps the the reported bomb threats on the Bridge and at the Sydney Opera House were real, and perhaps this would be the last time I’d see them.
One year ago, I remember finally walking through the front door of my home, after an arduous three-hour circuitous trip, and falling into the waiting arms of my wife and children. It was that moment that is indelibly burnt into my memory, that it truly is the love of family and friends that is most important. Buildings can be rebuilt, assets can be re-purchased. But the lives of your family are irreplaceable. And tonight, as the Martin Place memorial service runs, as footage of the flowers in Martin Place replays, and as another sunset drops into the west, reach out and hold your loved ones. If you love someone, take the moment and seize today as the day to tell them.
Do not let love go denied. Do not let hate be magnified.