Sydney is in mourning following the tragic end to the siege in Martin Place in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
The two hostages who died have been identified as barrister and mother-of-three Katrina Dawson, and Lindt Cafe manager Tori Johnson. They were both pronounced dead after being taken to hospital.
Walking from Circular Quay to Martin Place this morning, 24 hours since a gunman took 17 hostages in the Lindt cafe, Sydney was eerily quiet.
It’s a different city to the one I work in every day. Usually busy streets are empty. Sydney’s signature traffic is absent.
The Christmas spirit has been dampened. Rain spits from the sky as if in solidarity with the tears on the ground.
The flags atop the Sydney Harbour Bridge, usually a symbol of the Harbour City’s strength, are at half mast in mourning.
Approaching Martin Place I joined a procession of mourners carrying flowers, walking with a sad purpose, to pay their respects.
Police are standing guard.
Bystanders have muted conversations. “It could’ve been any of us,” they say. “They were just walking to get their morning coffee.”
“I didn’t think this could happen in Sydney,” said another person clutching flowers and a tissue to dab away a few stray tears.
The pile of flowers is growing. It’s a touching scene as Sydneysiders starting to grieve.
Teary ladies gently place blooms, say a quiet word and move back to just stare.
Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove and his wife joined the crowd to lay flowers and say a quiet prayer.
Strangers are hugging each other, sobbing on each other’s shoulders.
Children lay flowers with their parents. Muslims pay their respects too.
In the background, Martin Place’s Christmas tree towers above; a reminder that this is meant to be a jovial time, the festive season.
A line of people are quietly waiting to purchase flowers. The florist is run off his feet, methodically wrapping them and taking cash as the line in front of his shop front grows and his flower supply dwindles.
One Sydney mother who works just around the corner from the site of the siege, Amanda Jones, told me: “Today does not feel like yesterday”.
Between tears, she said no longer felt as safe in this city.
“I’m a mum, I have to protect my kids,” she said. “I won’t be going to New Years Eve on the Harbour… It could’ve happened to anyone.”
“It’s a very sad day for Australia.”
The impact of this horrific event will linger. Sydney was told to go about its daily business as people try to make sense of the past 24 hours.
Walking back towards Circular Quay, more people filter into the streets around the usually bustling tourist spot.
This will not beat Sydney.
There was little activity on Sydney Harbour. On the bridge, flags are at half mast as they are on all government buildings.
Muslim Australians rest flowers on the site of tribute, a beautiful image following the #illridewithyou hashtag which went viral on Twitter last night.
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