One week ago, the Sydney siege took Australia by surprise.  Everyone was still easing into their morning when the news of it began to spread like wildfire across the media and social networks. By the next day, the nation had watched with sadness and fear as Man Haron Monis took two innocent lives and traumatised many more, before being killed when the police went in.

The whole thing was, and is, horrible. I’m sure I speak for all Australians in saying that I wish it had never happened. Today, farewell services were held to honour the two people that lost their lives. But if anything can be comforting about it all, it’s the way that the country has reacted to the event.

A show of unity and support

The flowers that were left in Martin Place after the event have left me speechless. In aerial photos, there’s no pavement to be seen – just a sea of blooms and notes. When I walked through a few days after the siege, crowds were gathered, most florist stands had been emptied out, and the few stands that still had flowers also had very long queues. Sure, flowers don’t erase the event. But they’re a beautiful sign of the country coming together to say that it wasn’t alright, and that we’re all in this together.

#illrideridewithyou

During the siege, Man Haron Monis displayed an Islamist flag in the window. The public, instead of retaliating with irrational hate towards Muslims, did both an educated and amazing thing – offering to ride with Muslims on public transport so that they didn’t have to fear being targeted. This sign of mateship, that snowballed as the hours passed, makes me so proud to be an Aussie. 

Honouring the heroic actions of ordinary people

We don’t have explicit details about what went on in the Lindt Cafe that day, but we do have an idea about how the two victims died. Tori Johnson, the manager of the cafe, reportedly was attempting to grab Monis’ gun, and lawyer Katrina Dawson was said to be shielding a pregnant friend. Such a sad end, but certainly a meaningful one where they put themselves on the line for the good of others.

Tamara El-Rahi is an associate editor of MercatorNet. A Journalism graduate from the University of Technology Sydney, she lives in Australia with her husband and two daughters.