It has been one week since the Sydney siege. I’m not entirely sure what it is that I want to say in this post. But the best thing, I suspect, is just to begin writing and see where it ends up.
As I watched coverage of the horrific events unfolding in Martin Place it brought back many memories of my years working as a legal secretary in Sydney’s CBD. The names being bandied around by the various media outlets were so familiar. All part of what was literally my old stomping ground: walking — and, occasionally, running as fast as my (usually) high heels could carry me — to Martin Place Chambers in the Reserve Bank Building, to the Land and Environment Court opposite State Parliament on Macquarie Street, to so many other places. The Supreme Court. Frederick Jordan Chambers. Even to Selbourne Chambers.
Katrina Dawson worked at Eight Selbourne. She was the same age as me. She was a mum, like me. One of the barristers on her floor was someone I knew when I was growing up. He and I lived on opposite sides of the railway line in the same leafy north shore suburb, both played the violin, both got exactly the same TER in our HSC in the same year. I can’t begin imagine what the past week has been like for him, losing a colleague — and, no doubt, a friend — in such unimaginably tragic circumstances.
I was at the gym when the identities of those who died in the Sydney siege were being released. First Tori Johnson’s handsome face appeared on eight of the ten television screens in front of the treadmill I was running on, along with the information that the other victim was a lawyer and mother. I averted my gaze from the TV in front of me, hoping that when the female victim’s identity was confirmed that it wouldn’t be someone that I knew, but the next screen over was continuing the media’s saturation coverage of the situation, and the screen after that too. It was impossible to avoid, and as much as I wanted to, I found myself unable to look away.
I didn’t know any of the victims of the Sydney siege personally — not those who lost their lives, nor those who had their lives changed irrevocably over the course of seventeen awful hours. But like most Sydneysiders, I feel a very real sense of grief, a sharp recognition of the traumatic nature of an ordeal that no one — no one — should have had to endure.
I don’t yet know how to make sense of how our city has changed, or how we will deal with our collective loss of innocence. But I suspect that after the floral tributes have faded, after the messages chalked on footpaths have washed away, and after the hashtags stop trending, we will all need some time to reflect, to hold our loved ones closer, and to do our best to honour the memory of Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson by doing the one thing they cannot do any more.
We must live.
As fully as we possibly can.