Terror-hit Sydney cafe resumes service, 3 months later
Two Lindt customers were killed in a hostage situation in December.
It’s little before noon when a burly man with a walkie-talkie swaggers along the scattered queue outside a café famous for its chocolates. He announces that the customers preferring ‘takeaway’ can head to the counter. Those wanting to occupy tables need to wait for ‘5 to 10 minutes’, he assures. A few would move forward.
The usual buzz and restlessness associated with those waiting outside restaurants is missing among this pensive group gathered under the unusually cloudy Sydney sky. Few stare blankly; some exchange polite smiles. Opposite the café is the Channel 7 office that has a live news ticker which moves like a train across the breadth of its building. ‘150 killed in Yemen mosque blast’ is running on loop alongwith other global updates. A man in suit reads it, shakes his head and moves forward.
This is the Lindt café at Martin Place. On the first weekend, and the second day, after it was reopened after 3 months, it’s all about moving forward. The missing whiff of chocolate has returned to the popular hole of Sydney’s CBD where the working class, between breaks from work, come to indulge.
Three months back, the place approximately the size of two squash courts was filled with fear. A gunman had barged in, instantly turning those waiting the tables and others who’d placed their orders into hostages. After 16 hours, the man with the long list of demands was to get killed along with two others. Today, the ‘two’ are names on plaques inside the cafe.
In December last year, Christmas was just 10 days away. Now within a couple of weeks it will be Easter. It was a busy month then, but now it’s busier. As the queue gets long, a Lindt employee in a sharp suit walks in with a tray that has tiny golden Easter bunnies sitting on it.
“Eat while you wait,” he says. There are smiles all-round. Inside, the man managing tables has a long scribbled list. He isn’t hassled but seems pleased to be at work after the long break.
While waiting, the patrons check shelves that are crowded with bigger bunnies and brightly coloured egg-shaped sweets. They also sample balls with flaky toppings that the chef has dipped in a pot of hot molten chocolate.
Smiles, tears, chocolates
The employees have been told to avoid December 15-16 questions. Speeches, interviews, dedications and photo ops were for Friday. Cafe worker Joel Herat, who survived the siege, was behind the counter when the doors opened yesterday. He would talk about his trauma to the reporters and serve his specially-invited parents in presence of photographers.
The New South Wales premier was also there, he spoke about the resilience of Sydneysiders. Today the front pages of newspapers had smiles, a few tears and chocolate.
Saturday is all business-like. Normalcy has returned to the place which was on television last December. “Anything else?” says the man in elegant Lindt apron while flying around the tables carrying tray full of cups.
“Two hot chocholates,” says a customer. “That will be 15 dollars,” replies the man on the cash counter. It’s all dignified and sensitive.
At Martin Place, there is police presence. One man in uniform says he was here on December 15. He points to a lane where a waitress, Elly Chen, after escaping from the Lindt café backdoor, came running into the arms of a fully armed sniper. It would be the lasting frame of the siege; the fear on the face of the fleeing waitress conveyed the trauma of terror to the world. Today, things are peaceful.
The cops are watching a small bunch of protestors, who refer to the Americans as yanks and want them to stay away from Venezuela. They are calling each other comrades. You ask the cop more about the siege and he moves forward. It was all about moving forward at Martin Place.
Source:: Indian Express