You will be wondering why I am sharing this post with you now, so I will tell you straight up front. It is precisely now that we need our perspective about Life and what is important.
What IS important you ask?
Ask your soul, I answer.
A week ago, we were in Sydney. Our reason for going was to meet with some old friends from the USA who were here visiting, on their yacht. We were invited to spend a couple of nights on the yacht as well. We decided to add a couple of extra days in Sydney for last minute shopping, and to take in some of the Holiday sights.
We flew in on Sunday, late afternoon, and less than 24 hours later, you know what happened. Little known to us, as we walked through Martin Place at 9.30 on Monday morning, 15 December, there was a terrible thing happening, or about to happen, within minutes. We were very near the Lindt Café when a lone gunman took the unsuspecting staff and patrons as hostages.
We headed for George Street, none the wiser as yet, and as we arrived and were about to cross, three police cars were screaming into the intersection, and turned into the street from where we had come. We commented that it was unusual and that it must be serious. Shortly, another unmarked car, light on and siren piercing, raced passed us and in the same direction.
We were shopping for last minute Christmas gifts and had just started, so we continued on our errand. About an hour and a half later, we stopped in Myer Food Court for a drink and toilet break. We saw people staring at the TV screens and so we looked too. That was when the word ‘siege’ took root in our minds.
As we began to piece the times and events together, we realised we had been walking through Martin Place, 50 metres (150 feet) from the Lindt Café when the siege was taking place. It made us shudder to think about… there, but for circumstances, go us. If I had wanted my coffee, or chocolate, from that shop instead of a different place, we could have been among the hostages.
As we finished our shopping errands over the next 40 minutes or so, one by one, businesses shut. The streets gradually cleared, people found the way home or at least out of the city. It was the most orderly shutting down of a city you can imagine, at least from our perspective.
We had booked lunch at The Spice Temple, a restaurant we’d wanted to try. It was not far from the siege exclusion zone and we wondered if they would even be open, as nearly everything was shut by one o’clock. The restaurant was open and having nothing else to do we decided to have our lunch. The waiter told us they’d had about one hundred of the expected 150 patrons cancel for that day. So he was able to be very attentive and we had a delicious meal, though disbelief and undertones of sadness were never far from our thoughts.
As we emerged from the darkness of the restaurant, Sydney was almost like a ghost town.
From our nearby hotel and for the remainder of the afternoon, we watched the TV news about the siege. Real information still very sketchy, speculation was rife. And then three hostages escaped… An hour or so later, two more. Hope.
We walked along the waterfront in the evening. Seeing the lonely Opera House, which had earlier in the day been evacuated, was most unusual. It is usually packed with people around it. We got the idea to book a tour for the next day.
On Tuesday morning our hope was dashed. We awoke to the news of the ending of the siege and the taking of lives. Unfortunately, a number of such occasions over the years, have had us starting a day in the fog of disbelief. Life goes on, but we pause to reflect on our blessings, and to think of those whose lives the tragedy has involved directly.
The tour of the Opera House was special. It was lovely, because it is, of course, a beautiful place, but also because the guide worked so hard to take our minds off the sadness. He was brilliant.
After the tour we walked near the exclusion zone to our next stop. The city was still a bit stunned and people moved about as if they weren’t even sure they should be there. Gradually, as the streets reopened, workers returned to their offices, and the crowds built.
Especially in Martin Place.
Florists ran out of flowers.
We boarded the yacht Sliver Cloud for our dreamy visit–escaping the sad events, as many could not. After two nights we returned to the city to see the piles of flowers built up as Sydney grieved for its loss.
The memorial of flowers grew and grew. Mourners filed past to pay their respects. The smell of flowers was nearly overpowering as we approached the area. A group of people gathered, with the hash tag #embraceinmartinplace. They had signs offering free hugs, or conversation, if someone needed to talk. I exchanged hugs with a lovely young woman whose parting words to me were ‘we are all one love’.
We are crazed at this time of year, with shopping, cooking, partying. But Life has stopped still for those in Pakistan, New York, and Australia, where lives have been lost. It goes on for the rest of us, but hopefully we are awakened to what is really important, and it does not include decorations or gifts. It includes each other, and especially it includes the one love to which we are all connected.
What is important? Peace. Love. Us.