I’m here in Paris now because I buried Tori Johnson of the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place after the dreadful siege there.
I was also in Europe at the time of the Charlie Hebdo slaughter and went with Charles Miranda of News Ltd to pay my respects to the victims there.
It was at the Memorial Service for the Lindt Cafe a couple of weeks ago that I realised I was one of the few people to have been involved in both ‘situations’.
What I found so moving at both places, Martin Place and Charlie Hebdo was the mountains of flowers that literally appeared out of nowhere and the absolute silence, the so respectful silence of the onlookers/flower bringers who like the flowers appeared out of nowhere.
In Sydney, this was typified for me by a young couple who I noticed. She held a small bunch of flowers. He held her hand. As she laid the flowers, she shed a tear and he held her tenderly and comforted her. They like all the others turned up because they simply could not stay away. They came in solidarity with the victims.
I noticed the same thing in Paris.
What really got to me was the flowers and the absolutely reverential silence. I’ve been part of a silence thing before but this was complete silence even with thousands there. I have never experienced anything like it and to witness and be part of that in both Sydney and Paris was a really humbling awesome experience.
The flowers left at Martin Place were composted to go into a memorial to be placed in Martin Place. At that Martin Place Memorial Service the idea formed in me to take some of the composted flowers to Paris by the Jan 7 anniversary, to conduct a small memorial service there in a way to honour those citizens of both cities who reached out beyond themselves in a spirit of magnificent silence. There are also the usual reasons, too. To bring healing and comfort to traumatised people in traumatising times in a spirit of unity of two great cities. What matters is going there on behalf of all the people who care and don’t feel important enough to be able to be there. And, in a way don’t relate to leaders very well.
Australia is not really involved in the ceremonies and the main one is on Sunday which I’ll go to. They are going to plant a tree in the Square and I’m hoping I can put some of the composted flowers in the hole in which the tree is to be planted. I’ll get on to that right after I’ve performed the ceremony outside the old Charlie Hebdo offices on 7/1 today.
With the Australian Ambassador to France with the urn of composted flowers.