Sydney, Monday, December 15, 2014.
In a cafe in the central district Martin Place there is a man with a bag in his hand. Inside the bag a rifle.
After a few moments the doors are locked, those outside can not enter, those inside can not go out. Between ten and twenty hostages. At this stage we know nothing more specific. It is not clear if the individual is an armed Islamic terrorist or "just" a deranged madman. Yet we know that the situation is critical. You can tell by the number of police officers also besieging the cafe. The entire area is evacuated. Heavily armed anti-terrorist agents surround the building with weapons drawn. The lights flash on nearby police cars. All eyes focused on the windows of the cafe. The eyes of the hostages lost in a world of their own.
Snipers, meanwhile, take place.
SIXTEEN HOURS AFTER IS ALL FINISHED.
After hearing a gunshot, late at night, the police raid and kill the man. Two hostages killed. To this point, the information is scarce and confusing. Speculation is rife about the reaction of the hostages, some perhaps injured, an agent shot in the face? and many, many bullets fired. All other hostages are rescued.
In this scenario Sydney is paralyzed.
Local and national newspapers jostle with their pages to publish the last second updates. Whatever it is, rumours, a photo stolen, a communication between agents. Nobody knows exactly what and how. Journalists are stalling. Every now and then they shoot some news, but they immediately point out that it is unconfirmed, just word of mouth. Police block the dissemination of real time images to avoid obstructing the operation. Everyone is cautious about the number of hostages. Politics intervenes in a sobering way, through the two main spokesmen. The Prime Minister and leader of the opposition give a speech. Words of homeland, love and God. Maybe the attack is politically motivated. Words of circumstance and a thought for the families involved. Appreciation and gratitude for the police.
The day after the city, still in shock, mourn the tragedy.
MEANWHILE IN ITALY.
The newspapers open their front pages with titles from third world war. Sydney in shock. Attack in Sydney. ISIS terror attack. 20 hostages. 30 hostages. 40 hostages. 50 hostages. Also the number and type of captors keeps changing: one at first, then up to three. Definitely politically motivated. Hence Islamic terrorism very likely and in fact now everyone takes it for granted. Italian blogs that up to ten minutes before were talking about travels, improvise as though war reporters, directly in the frontline, with minute by minute updates, photos taken from various newspapers and the Australian police twitter account. People are now shitting themselves and friends instantly send me messages like "so, AL-Qaeda exists in Australia after all uh?...", "I heard that Islamic terrorism does not spare your beloved Australia".
Facebook meanwhile splits between the mass erection amongst gunsmiths, a violent disappointment between the mass of fools praising racism and a wet excitement amongst the followers of the "Muslim bastards".
The newspapers then play upward. There are rumours of bombs scattered. 100% Islamic terrorist attack. Perhaps gunfire. Surely the ISIS are involved. The comments in the newspaper articles are the part that for the most part paint the narrow-mindedness of people who not only want to read crap, but also must write some.
In the aftermath of the raid by the Australian police, in Italy everyone is virtually an expert about anti-terrorism, certainly has a past as a commando or is at least a weapons expert; everyone is consumed politician, scientist, sociologists, spin doctors.
In the comments we read of how surely the anti-terrorist units were wrong. Sitting comfortably on the couch/toilet, they analyse the blitz (from sixteen thousand kilometres away through a blurry video on youtube resumed a hundred yards from the scene) and point out how the agents would have had to move in a different way, use a different weapon, launch that grenade instead. We read of how agents have made a complete fiasco since two hostages died.
Within a few minutes the comments become dozens. At this point, the scenario is this:
"40 hostages after the ISIS launches terrorist attack in Sydney. At least three bombs around the city. Panic. Shock (but written choc, like chocolate ...). Shit Muslims, Bastard Islam. All of them must get out the country."
Girls no older than twenty years of age start a conversation about the socio-political situation in a country they have never seen, and they heard about in commercials and on Instagram. Fans of Call of Duty who have seen war in HD pixels comment on the exploits of real agents, with real training, in situation of real risk, but that, for some reason, is pretty much the same as clicking circle and square, drinking some-kind-of-shit soda.
People argue on the internet about the various alternative outcomes.
Meanwhile, Sydney wakes up.
No doubts about the police conduct. No words yet about any mistakes made, but the focus is on those the agents have saved. The initial photos portray at least one agent. Respect for the institutions, at least for now. Then we'll see. This is no time to talk fools and, again, no one knows anything for sure. Everyone remains sober. People have died. Condolences for the lives lost. Debates on how it happened. Earlier meanders a bit of fear, a tension that seems invisible, a burst of racial hatred dictated by anger. Then a single written word disintegrates this growing bubble and turns everything in the exact opposite.
Sydney. The next day. In a public train.
A Muslim woman uncovers her head, taking off the veil, probably feeling observed by people around. A girl goes and sits next to her and says: Put the veil back on. If you're scared, I'll ride with you.
The hashtag #illridewithyou goes viral around the globe in a nano-second, but even better - Sydney responds!!
Anger after the dramatic event is no longer an excuse to divide, but a moment of union.
Martin Place becomes a carpet of flowers. Martin Place turn into a big hug of tunics, turbans, and different beliefs. Martin Place was the site of the tragedy, but is now the site of the response of Sydney.
Thousands of kilometres further on. Italy.
People did not even understand what the hell happened. The Italian equivalent of the English articles leaks more water than a woman in labor leaks water, and the many gaps are filled by as much bullshit. People talk, talk, talk, comment, comment, comment. But they do not know anything.
This is the real tragedy.
The Telegraph dares to make the connection between Sydney-ISIS and boasts to first publish the photos. Australians react in no time on twitter and disintegrate the newspaper and its editor. Shame! How dare you!
An Italian newspaper writes of 30 hostages, missing completely the story and all the numbers (attackers, hostages, injured, victims). The Italians cry to Al-Qaeda and ISIS. Let’s kill them all. Maybe the extreme right wing party is right...
Wake the fuck up, idiots.
The square in front of the besieged cafe hosts people of all ethnicities, religions and backgrounds, blends and hugs. Who mourns lost friends and families. The hostages of the night before return to that place, to process, think, relive each of them in their own way what will be a trauma for a long time. There are tears, but not only of sadness. There are hugs, but not only of condolence. But of hope and acceptance. Sydney wants to see at all costs how responding with union to certain facts is even more powerful and that anger and has a devastating power.
Martin Place meanwhile, gets more and more full of cards, flowers, people. I'll ride with you.
Writer wannabe, mojito and absinthe lover, one day I want to see the Earth from space.