yesterday trying to keep news of the siege in Sydney from the Senior Cat - at least until Brother Cat had called in to say he was safe. The outcome has not been what any of us hoped for. Two people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time are dead and so is the gunman.
My brother works in a building close to Martin Place. He uses the Martin Place train station. I also have colleagues who work in Martin Place. I knew my brother was most unlikely to have used the Lindt café but there was every possibility that other people I knew might.
I also knew Brother Cat would check in when he could and was safe - and he did. He phoned as he walked in the door of his home.
Since then one of my colleagues has let me know that yes, the people I know there are safe too. One of them had actually been in the café about twenty minutes before the gunman walked in. All of them stayed well out of the way.
They were not any of those hundreds of people hanging around in Martin Place making the situation even more difficult for the police. I would not expect them to be. They all know far too much about the dangers such situations pose.
There is nothing "exciting" about such situations. They are, quite simply, terrifying - in the true sense of the word - for those involved. I know. I was once caught up, in a very small way, in a related situation. There was an armed hold up at the post office in Marchmont St in London. Another student and I were going in - just as two men in balaclavas with guns in their hands ran out. I was knocked over. The other student, much faster on her feet, was knocked aside. We were, perhaps, never in any great danger but it seemed so at the time. Those inside the post office at the time were in much greater danger. The incident still left us both shaken.
I did not tell my parents about the incident in my letter home that week. For days afterwards noises startled me. I did not eat well. I did not sleep well. I could not concentrate on my work. The other student admitted she felt much the same.
If we felt that way then how do people in much more dangerous situations feel? That "post traumatic stress disorder" has to be real, especially for people who are suddenly and unexpectedly caught up in a truly dangerous situation.
If I had been in Sydney yesterday I know my reaction would have been to follow police orders and stay indoors, stay well away from windows. The last thing I would have wanted to do would be join a crowd of people in Martin Place. My brother did not want to be there. He stayed in the office at lunchtime. My colleagues did not want to be there. It was all too close for their comfort.
And yet other people went to look. I don't understand that.
I just wish the outcome had been different.