Wednesday, December 17, 2014

When it feels personal...

Martin Place.
The amphitheatre. The benches near the stall with all the flowers. The Law Society and Supreme Court just around the corner. The buildings. The businesses. The library. Elizabeth Street. The steps down to the train station. Snapshots. Continual poses frozen in my mind. I am stuck in my head. Clouded with emotion and shock.

Lindt cafe.
My favourite cafe in Sydney. I was there just last year. We were all there one Friday morning on a summer's day. All the other times I went there. Pancakes with my sister. Sitting by the windows. The tastes, senses and vibes from the chocolate. The type of people who would stop by, or linger. Chocolate to go. Delectable tastes and memories in my head. In my heart.

Katrina Dawson.
A tribute. A name. A face. A person. A college resident. A fleeting memory. A brave soul. Discrete moments captured and linked together to arrive at an unimaginable ending.

They say when something tragic happens to you, you need to give yourself time to grieve. Allow yourself to acknowledge the emotions. What happens when you are not directly affected but instead, a spectator from afar. Are you still entitled to grieve? I feel entitled to grieve and mourn the reckless murder of innocence. The violation of my personal memories. The loss of lives.

We make memories. We experience moments that leave a mark on us. We go through motions not knowing their effect or how they might influence others now or in the future. We leave pieces of our hearts in the things we love and do, sincerely but possibly superfluously, only to recall them at times like this. Time and circumstances work together to filter through the past and make important that which was once a single chain in a long series of moments.

When I first heard about the Sydney siege, I was in shock, just like millions of others. Maybe if it had occurred somewhere else, it wouldn't have shook me that way. But this is my hometown. This is Martin Place. A place I know. A place I walked through, lingered on in and reflected by many times. Time is testimony to moments I spent there. How can that same place be host and witness to an event so gruesome. How can a lunatic give himself the right to intrude on that space.

And this is Lindt cafe. My favourite chocolate cafe, in fact my favourite cafe in Sydney. A warm and delightful place. Chocolate attracts happiness and innocence. It also attracts children. A non-coffee drinker, Lindt was my solace and my answer. A delectable, stylish, classy and simple venue in the midst of a seriously busy city hub. Now the innocence of the place has been violated and destroyed. Guns, fear, threats, death... how can that be forever linked to the homecoming and welcoming feeling of chocolate.

Then there are the victims. I could've been one of them. Any one of my family or friends could've been one of them. It would not be uncommon for us to stop by the cafe for a hot chocolate or a special treat. Whenever I think back to the horror that the victims and their families must've experienced, I feel sick to the bone. It is not hard to replace their images with myself or any one of my family or friends.

Katrina Dawson. What a brave soul. Ever since I saw her picture or heard her name, I felt a sense of connection. At first I thought I was empathising with her but there was another nagging yet distant feeling. And then I realised why as the cobwebs of the past cleared and I found myself facing an explosion of memories. Our connection is Womens College. The halls of residence I lived in for three years while I studied at the University of Sydney many many years ago, while approaching the end of my teens. A place where she and I lived and shared for one of my three years. A place that shaped my personality. There is no denying it. My initial university years, my college years were the most influential years in my life. Living with other women, day in and day out, sharing meals, sharing activities and events. The formal dinners. The guest speakers. The food. The random wanderings... We were influenced by the same things. For a year, we took in the same experiences. Did I know her personally? No. But I could've passed her by walking down one of the corridors. I could've smiled at her. Could she have been just a few doors away from me? Did I ever imagine that someone I used to live with but had no direct connection with would suddenly make me want to grieve for her? How is this possible?

Perhaps it is still the shock of it all that is preventing me from understanding my emotions. I am saddended. I am mourning silently in my heart a fellow college resident. I am mourning the cafe manager. Brave, brave soul. I am silently holding a vigil and a prayer in my heart for them and for their families. And I cry untold tears for my religion that gets blasphemed by lunatics time and time again for no reason. Lunatics who know nothing of its tenderness.

I cry silent tears for the #illridewithyou hashtag that touched so many of us. This is what humanity is about. I cry silent tears for the hope of humanity left in many and I cry bitter tears for those whose hearts have hardened in its face.

I long to lay flowers on the ground at the site and to write sincere words in the notebooks lying there now. I long to join in and show my little bit of humanity. But I am afar so I grieve alone. May they rest in peace and may the justice system learn a hard hard lesson, never to be repeated ever again.