As I gingerly entered Sydney’s Lindt Cafe yesterday, nobody handed me a bravery award, or even acknowledged the deeply troubled significance of my visit. That I wasn’t there for chocolate or even coffee.
A year after Sydney’s horrific terrorist siege in the Lindt Cafe at the heart of Martin Place, I was there to pay my respects.
Like so many, I had been glued to the TV screen during the siege. I’d broken my foot the day before. Immobilised and in pain, I vicariously experienced the horror, the not knowing and witnessed those gunshots which brought the siege to an end with three deaths and a blinding flash of light.
You don’t have to be there anymore to experience a sense of such trauma. Even if you have only half a heart, watching such trauma on TV, absorbing the aftermath of personal stories and being walked in their shoes, are enough.
As I said, you don’t need to be there.
Yet, for those that were, how do you ever move forward and yet they have no choice. Life goes on. It doesn’t stop. Pause. Hold its breath. It just keeps going and like running late for the train, you just have to get onboard.
I haven’t vowed never to frequent the Lindt Cafe but I still stand by what I said last year, with such a plethora of choice, I’d rather go some place else. Somewhere I can smile, laugh relax, write without being pursued by dark shadows.
As I said, I was far from being comfortable being in the Lindt Cafe. I could feel the gunshots going off and yet I couldn’t smell gunpowder.
All I could smell was chocolate. That intoxicating smell of chocolate and yes, that smell was very particular. It was Lindt chocolate. I was absolutely divine, heavenly and I can’t believe I resisted it all. However, it was such a hot day and I wasn’t going straight home so I didn’t even buy a drop. Even resisted all those gold Lindt teddy bears…two for $10.00!
When you enter the Lindt Cafe, there’s the chocolate shop on your left and you have to swing around to your right, to enter the cafe.
That was all fine. Didn’t affect me at all.
However, seeing the staff wearing the very same dark chocolate-coloured aprons which had been worn by the hostages, triggered an awful sense of terror. The simple aprons made me feel ill.
It’s not surprisingly really. After all, the main images of the siege featured terrified Lindt employees wearing these very same aprons, escaping from the terrorist and running for their lives. There was one girl in particular. The horror etched into her face. She was running for her life… a survivor escaping a war zone.
You don’t forget that.
At least, I don’t.
I left without buying anything and would’ve liked to light a candle for Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson who were killed during the siege. I didn’t see anywhere I could do that but I did stop at a memorial out the front.
Yet, what can you say?
More and more I am finding words are so inadequate and like so many at Christmas time, I have no spare cash.
I walked out of the cafe and back into Martin Place.
Not unsurprisingly, being around lunchtime, Martin Place was humming. It is the hub of Sydney’s CBD. Of course, the Christmas Tree was up and I was conscious that for a second Christmas, Katrina Dawson’s kids didn’t have their Mum. As a chronically ill Mum with two young kids, I feel that. We’ve had a few Christmases where my life was hanging in the balance and have had our own horror. Of course, I’m going to be mindful of those experiencing what I’ve feared with all that I am.
Yet, despite this churning vortex of intense, grueling emotion, I was strangely comforted by a classical guitarist performing in Martin Place. I noticed him a couple of blocks away and somehow the notes hooked into my heart. Like the children being lured by the Pied Piper of Hamlin, I felt myself being irresistibly drawn towards his melodious song. Quite often, I find myself drawn towards more melancholy music, but this was so upbeat, happy and just what the heart doctor ordered.
Thank you Joseph Zarb! You can hear him too at http://www.jose.net.au
Still feeling reflective, there was now a spring in my step.
Music helps the heart to heal and to hope.
It is an intriguing coincidence that one of Sydney’s most iconic historical photographs, The Dancing Man, was taken virtually outside where the Lindt Cafe stands today. This photo captured the jubiliant excitement of the end of World War II. It doesn’t deny it’s horror but it does celebrate a better future…peace!
Since the horror of the Lindt Siege, there have been two major terrorist attacks on Paris and there’s a heightened level of vigilance and dare I say, fear.
However, that doesn’t mean we resign ourselves to the status quo. Stop fighting for freedom and that ultimate goal, which, even though it might sound rather cheesy and corny…world peace.
As John Lennon said: “Give peace a chance”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkZC7sqImaM