Last night I watched a ‘60 Minutes’ story on the siege at the Lindt Café in Sydney in December 2014. What struck me was the heroic and brave actions of the younger hostages held in this siege. These uni students, who were part-time workers at the café, were able to make clear decisions in a time of extreme stress and on the whole seem to be coping well in the aftermath.
It reminded me of a time when I was 17, working part-time at the local Pizza Hut. One night after closing the restaurant for trade, two masked gunmen held the staff at gunpoint, whilst our Manager was taken out the back of the restaurant to empty the safe. The older people I was working with were shaking and sobbing, whilst I was trying to memorise the clothes worn by the armed robber who had his gun pointed at me. I then tried to work out his height by counting the number of tiles on the wall behind him. Whilst I was obviously terrified, I kept calm and tried to think as logically as possible, wanting to give the police the most accurate account of events as possible.
Once the thieves left the restaurant, I called my parents to let them know I would be late, telling them I had been ‘held up’. Due to the nuances in the English language my mother took that to mean I had been waylaid, not that I had been actually held up at gunpoint.
I was able to give police a clear description of the thieves and then went home, to live my life with as much normality as possible. I kept working at that Pizza Hut for a few months, but found that any time we closed the restaurant I began to feel anxious. Eventually I gave that job away and worked in a boutique, which was both a blessing and a curse. I enjoyed the work, but never had money because I spent all my wages on clothes that I could buy at staff discount!
I haven’t thought much about that armed hold up for a long time, which I guess shows you how resilient kids can be! I now reflect that my eldest daughter is the same age I was when that incident occurred and I fervently hope that none of my kids ever have to experience the stress of wielding to the demands of an irrational thug.
Obviously my experience pales into insignificance in comparison to the hostages in the Lindt Café siege that lasted hours. I just hope they can all move forward with their lives knowing that they did what they had to do in that situation and that they bear no responsibility for the actions of the deranged terrorist who was accountable for the death of two innocent people.
(Photo courtesy of Pong, freedigitalphotos.net)