Feature: "Horribly Sad" -- Sydneysiders lay floral tributes after Bondi Junction mass stabbing


By Wang Qi

SYDNEY, April 14 (Xinhua) -- From dawn till dusk on Sunday, numerous mourners from all across Sydney have been swarming to Bondi Junction in the city's east, grieving over the loss of six innocent lives and multiple injuries caused by a mass-casualty stabbing.

The shopping center remained cordoned off with investigations underway at the crime scene. Under the arrangements of related authorities, a line of people waited outside the building to retrieve their cars from the parking lot.

Some of those present were vehicle owners who happened to leave their cars on the premises without seeing the attack unfold, and some were witnesses who felt too traumatized to recollect any speck of Saturday's tragedy.

Parents also came in place of their children, as their beloved ones were still trembling in the aftermath of such a horror.

Just a short distance away from the shopping center, Oxford Street served as a venue for members of the public to mourn the victims. With mental health volunteers on-site to provide timely support, a constant stream of people showed up laying flowers or leaving condolence messages throughout the day.

"It was very scary. Very close to home. Horribly sad," Alisa Bartholomew said after leaving a bouquet to pay her respect.

When spending a cozy Saturday afternoon at the nearby Bondi Beach, Bartholomew and her friends had planned to go to Bondi Westfield before a change of heart. Then they were made aware of the attack through texts sent by other friends.

"I was aback and so shocked, especially in Bondi Westfield, a very busy shopping center in a safe community. So it was just confusion like why it would happen here," said Bartholomew.

Having lived in Sydney for a year, the British visits the center almost every day, as this is where she does grocery shopping and gym workouts.

"It is a lovely city, very friendly and safe. So when something like this happens, it seems completely out of the norm for a city like this," said Bartholomew.

According to the police, the knife-wielding offender named Joel Cauchi entered the shopping center at around 3:20 p.m. local time on Saturday, starting a stabbing spree that left four women and one man dead at the scene, with another 38-year-old female succumbing to severe injury at a hospital.

Twelve patients, including nine women, two men, and a nine-month-old baby, were also taken to various Sydney hospitals. As of Sunday afternoon, one female patient has already been recently discharged.

Bondi local Kelly O'Brien completed her shopping and left the center, sensing nothing out of the ordinary, shortly before the arrival of the attacker.

"Where he was my normal route," said O'Brien, who was still reeling from the shock. For many locals like O'Brien, the Bondi Westfield is where they would be there "once or twice a day, not even once a week."

"Just knowing you may have missed him by half an hour, you just don't expect it," said O'Brien.

"The victims won't be forgotten and everyone will definitely do what we can to make sure that they live on. But also, we don't want to keep thinking about the person that did it. It's more about the people that were impacted. I feel that as a community, we'll just rise and become stronger," she added.

Among those hundreds of bouquets, there was also a bunch from Conor McClelland, a 29-year-old born and bred in Sydney. His home is situated in Sydney's west, but his partner's is within 100 meters of Bondi Westfield.

"I wanted to come through and pay my respects. She wanted to. She is doing the same thing in her own way. But she is struggling quite hard. She has been part of the community for a little while now and feels very attached to it," McClelland told Xinhua.

"We were just shocked. You've seen a lot of the reactions from people. It's been the same words used. It feels very hard to believe and very jarring that is happening here in an iconic part of Sydney," he said.

The Bondi Junction is one of the eastern suburbs in Sydney, located 3 to 4 km east of the city's central business district and also within proximity of Bondi Beach, one of Australia's most popular tourist attractions.

The suburb, in McClelland's eyes, is of "great positivity" and a place where "people come to enjoy themselves and have fun," but the horrific attack stands "in stark contrast" to this environment.

Meanwhile, more details about the brave inspector Amy Scott who confronted the assailant alone and the bystanders displaying heroic acts are being increasingly reported and winning widespread praise.

"It will take a long time for things to sink in. But on a positive note, I saw some of the interviews about the people who were on the scene and some of the actions taken that were pretty incredible. Not just the community here but wider Australia can get galvanized by these behaviors to stay together," said McClelland.

On Sunday evening, major landmarks in the state of Victoria, such as Flinders Street Station, Federation Square, and the National Gallery of Victoria, were illuminated white in memory of those lost in the stabbing.

The Commonwealth Flag Network confirmed that flags across Australia are to be flown at half-mast on Monday at the request of the country's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Local media also revealed that the Sydney Opera House would project a memorial on its sails on Monday night.

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