Destination: 53 Martin Place, Sydney.
The address has become a well-known location now after a radical Muslim named Man Haron Monis held hostage 10 customers and eight employees of Lindt Café in the morning rush hour on 15 December 2014. The 16-hour siege ended after the gunman was killed. The incident also claimed two innocent lives.
Ever since I arrived in Sydney, I longed to visit the Café and have a cup of coffee there.
I spoke to Kim, the owner of Central Inn, and he told me how I could go to 53 Martin Place. “It’s not a faraway place and you could easily walk down,” he said. “Today is Sunday and there won’t be lot of people on the street now.”
Emboldened by his assurance, we stepped out of the hotel and kept walking towards the right and then took the first right hand side turn. There was a huge chapel and then we crossed two intersections—Castlereagh Street and Elizabeth Street. It being Sunday, offices were closed and the hustle and bustle of Sydney gave way to quiet murmur of tourists taking leisurely walk along the streets. We went past the huge Hyde Park, a must-see location for tourists.
Hyde Park is the oldest public parkland covering 40 acre in the central business district of Sydney. Located on Elizabeth Street and on the eastern side of the city centre, it extends north to the shore of Sydney Harbor via The Domain and Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden. It is rectangular in shape, being squared at the southern end and rounded at the northern end. It is bordered on the west by Elizabeth Street, on the east by College Street, on the north by St James Road and Prince Albert Road and on the south by Liverpool Street.
Around the park’s boundaries lie the Supreme Court of New South Wales, St James Church, Hyde Park Barracks and Sydney Hospital to the north, St Mary’s Cathedral, the Australian Museum and Sydney Grammar School to the east, Downing Centre to the south, David Jones Limited flagship store and the CBD to the west. The park has a nice and well-kept garden and about 500 trees. It is famous for its magnificent fig tree lined avenues.
The centre piece of Hyde Park is Archibald Fountain. The fountain was designed by Fracois Leon Sicard and donated by J.F. Archibald in 1932 in honour of Australia’s contribution to World War I.
At the Park’s southern end is Anzac War Memorial.
A monument consisting of a 104-millimetre gun from the German light cruiser SMS Emden stands at the south-eastern, Oxford Street entry of the park. It was built as a memorial to the Australian Imperial Force of World War I. Fund raising for a memorial began on 25 April 1916, the first anniversary of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landing at Anzac Cove for the Battle of Gallipoli. It was opened on 24 November 1934 by His Royal Highness Price Henry, Duke of Gloucester.
Travelers taking subway train may get down at Museum station which is closest to Hyde Park.
Leaving Hyde Park behind, we walked down the street toward the north to Martin Place which is known as the “love heart” of Sydney. As home to the Reserve Bank of Australia, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Macquarie Bank, Westpac and other corporations, it is also a centre of business and finance. The Sydney GPO and the Seven Network’s Sydney news centre are also located on Martin Place.
53 Martin Place is an imposing building and has an old world charm. The Café is located on the ground floor. As I stepped into the Café, my heart went out to all of those who were caught up in that tragic incident and their loved ones. It was tragic beyond words that people going about their business could have been stuck in such a horrific incident.
I extended my sympathy in silence to the families of the two hostages who died on that fateful day.
As I was sipping coffee, I met a young Australian called Tim. He works in Reserve Bank of Australia located just opposite Lindt Café. He was about to enter his office as he heard the news of the siege. “I initially couldn’t make out the gravity of the situation. But as I turned around I saw folks scampering down the alley. Panicky people ran helter-skelter and I got terrified. The road was closed in no time as policemen took charge of the area,” he said recounting that morning. “I heard gunshots. We were told to stay indoors.”
Channel Nine located close to the Café was broadcasting the incident live. Sydney has never experienced such a scene: a terrorist striking at the heart of the city at the morning rush hour. “City folks were stunned. I immediately called home to let my family members know that I was alright,” Tim said.
Tim, who is a regular with the Lindt Café, was shocked when he heard that Tori Johnson, the café manager, was killed in the siege. “Tori was such a good heart; even the day before I talked to him before leaving the café. I could hardly believe that Tori is no more,” Tim said.
Lindt Café was closed since the December incident and was reopened only on 20 March this year.
It’s back to business again at Lindt as coffee-lovers pour in to their favorite joint. Terror has failed to subdue the spirit of Sydney. People have overcome the tragedy with their inner strength. Life goes on at 53 Martin Place.