“IT was a day when Sydney stood up; when Australia stood up.
“When the collective mood switched from horror and outrage, to one of resilience, compassion and togetherness.”
So said NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione on Tuesday, the first anniversary of the Lindt Cafe siege.
Mr Scipione and NSW Premier Mike Baird joined siege survivors and their families and friends in Martin Place to remember the terrible events of last December and to remember, in particular, the two people killed in the event: barrister and mother-of-three Katrina Dawson and the cafe’s manager, Tori Johnson.
As the nation reflected this week on those devastating events, there has been a kaleidoscope of opinions and stories about that day.
It is unsurprising that the thoughts of most people go initially to the 18 siege victims, as those who survived continue to deal with what occurred inside the cafe and the families of Ms Dawson and Mr Johnson deal with the deaths of their loved ones.
As time has passed since December 15, 2014, we have heard other stories.
How the tactical response officers preparing to enter the cafe texted messages to their loved ones because they were concerned that the siege gunman – he does not deserve to be named – had a bomb and that they could well be killed.
We saw the outpouring of grief as thousands and thousands of people waited for hours to lay flowers in Martin Place and we saw the predicted backlash against Muslim people that just didn’t come.
We’ve had politicians and commentators from across the political spectrum debate and discuss the siege and how it has reshaped Australian thinking.
For me, it’s hard to think past the siege victims and their families.
It’s virtually impossible not to think of Katrina Dawson’s three children, who have now passed a full year without their mum.
They’ve ticked off all those milestones – Christmas, birthdays and Mother’s Day – as they adjust to their new normal.
Or how about Tori Johnson’s family as they returned to the siege site to remember a young man who was taken far too soon?
We can only hope in the year that has passed, the 16 hostages who survived the siege have been able to find the help and support they need to come to terms with what happened on an ordinary day when they had simply stopped for a cuppa.
All Australians, I think, were reminded on December 15, 2014, that life can change in an instant and that we all could do with stopping for a minute and taking stock of what’s good around us.
Political commentator Chris Kenny, who walked out of the Lindt Cafe mere seconds before the siege began, wrote in part in The Australian this week about the aftermath of last year’s events.
“Tens of thousands of people of all faiths, including Muslims, filed into Martin Place to leave flowers and pay their respects, displaying their defiance and cohesion,” he wrote.
“We do not need to deny the threat or censor the reality; Australians know the pernicious threat of Islamist terrorism is among us and they know it threatens Muslim and non-Muslim alike.
“If we are forced to endure a similar event in the future — and the current terror alert says that is likely — there might be some differences in the way security agencies handle it. They will have learned some lessons.”
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