It’s with a heavy heart I come to you today.
12/15/2014 It began as a typical day at the office until shrieking alarms tore us from our monotonous Monday morning routine. This was soon to be a day forever engrained in my heart.
I have lived in Sydney for five months now and always feel extremely safe here. The horrific events of terror that nearly shut down my city yesterday were a shock to us all. The siege at the Lindt Cafe brought fear to the streets of Sydney like no event since the terrorist bombing of the Hilton Hotel in February of 1978.
10:29am An armed gunman held up the Lindt Café in Martin Place (a quick five minute walk from my office where I often enjoy a morning mocha). 17 hostages can be seen standing in front of the windows with their arms in the air, forced to wave an Islamic State flag.
10:48am All train lines are shut down to Sydney CBD, and police inform surrounding buildings (including my own) to keep their employees inside on lockdown.
10:56am Reports of a “suspicious package” at the Opera House terrify us all into thinking this may be more than an isolated event.
12:55pm Prime Minister, Tony Abbott: “Australia is a peaceful, open and generous society. Nothing should ever change that.”Mr Abbott urges Sydney Siders to “go about their business as usual and to report anything suspicious to the national security hotline.”
3:41pm Three people can be seen on footage running from the Cafe. “A peaceful resolution will be what we are working for,” the police report.
4:00pm My office was sent home from work and I get back to twenty Facebook messages from worried friends and family catching the international coverage on the event.
4:59pm Two more women escape from the café.
5:37pm Uber raises its fares up to $100 to get a lift out of central Sydney. After uproar on social media, the company attributes the spike to its “surge pricing” system, which increases fares when demand rises. Uber offers free rides following the criticism.
2:15am Multiple gun shots fired and police force entry to the building.
2:30am Multiple hostages have emerged from the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Martin Place.
2:45am: 16 hours later, the chaos finally ends.
6:00am Tuesday I wake up to the devastating news that the siege had ended, but sadly at the loss of two hostages and the gunman himself, with four critically injured.
Australia gave the world a lesson today. Political activists turn to terrorism to win attention, to cause fear, and to use that fear to produce an overreaction.
Anti-islamic sentiment flood social media with backlash against Australian Muslims and immigrants, but there is a campaign gathering steam that will restore your faith in humanity.
The hashtag began from a Facebook post from Sydney-Sider Rachael Jacobs who was riding on a train in Sydney, and noticed a Muslim woman quietly take off her head covering . “I ran after her at the train station. I said ‘put it back on. I’ll walk with u’. She started to cry and hugged me for about a minute – then walked off alone.”
#illridewithyou is a social movement where every day Australians are offering to ride on buses and trains with Muslims, or give them a lift to work tomorrow, in order to keep them safe and free of fear. This beautiful act of kindness gives me chills right up my spine.
I am so proud of my city for challenging the dangerous media portrayal of these tragic events. “Muslim” and “terrorist” are far from synonymous. Let not the acts of one troubled man overshadow this great nation. Sydney, in the wake of such traumatic events, together we stand strong together.