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Anguish and fear grip city in shock as terror stand-off plays out

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Police push back a member of the public who tried to get into a building located near the Lindt cafe, where hostages are being held, at Martin Place in central Sydney

Police push back a member of the public who tried to get into a building located near the Lindt cafe, where hostages are being held, at Martin Place in central Sydney

Police push back a member of the public who tried to get into a building located near the Lindt cafe, where hostages are being held, at Martin Place in central Sydney

I IMMEDIATELY knew something serious had happened. Shortly after 10am yesterday morning a senior executive at the place where I work burst into the boardroom where we were in a meeting.

"A terrorist incident is happening in Martin Place," she blurted out, visibly shaken. "If you have loved ones working in the area please contact them and check they're okay."

All around me, people were making hurried phone calls, desperate to confirm the whereabouts of their nearest and dearest.

I discovered that Circular Quay, home to the Sydney Opera House and also the workplace of my partner, was under threat. I tracked him down and he told me he was safe but like many of the office workers in the vicinity, he was under lock down. Next, came panicked calls to colleagues who were in the area.

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Thankfully, it doesn't appear that any of the innocent hostage victims are within my immediate circle. Others in Sydney are not so lucky however.

For the family, friends and loved ones of those under siege, it has been 24 hours racked with anguish and fear. No doubt, they would have been glued to their TV sets.

They would have shared my delight after 2.00am when, first, one male hostage ran out the front door, followed swiftly by a number of other hostages. That delight quickly turned to shock and horror as the first gunshots were fired.

The agony of friends, family and loved ones will, no doubt, have been compounded as it became clear there were a number of fatalities and injuries among the hostages.

Paramedics and row after row of ambulances were ready in anticipation of such an unfortunate turn of events. Authorities had been extremely guarded about the level of information disclosed to the public, choosing to keep the identity of the gunman under wraps initially.

With fears of a racially motivated backlash towards the Muslim community in Sydney, the resilient Australian public instigated the #illridewithyou Twitter campaign.

It encourages members of the public to accompany members of the Muslim community - particularly women identifiable in a hijab - on public transport for fear of racial abuse.

This show of unity has paved the way for Australia's recovery in the wake of this harrowing event.

By tworking together as a nation, they can overcome the threat of terrorism.

hnews@herald.ie


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