#illridewithyou

The term “breaking news” makes it sound like the thing that is happening is literally breaking the news. You have your normal news, and then all of a sudden (and often not on time with your local 5:00 news special show), BAM. Breaking news comes and shatters the non-breaking news.

Such a thing happened last night. I opened Yahoo to check my email, but before I could even click on the mail icon, a violet banner caught my eye. “Breaking News,” it read. I can’t remember exactly the next headline, but it was something about a cafe in Sydney, Australia. And a gunman. And hostages.

Australia is on the other side of the world. But it was in my house two nights ago, as I skyped my brother who lives there. The Lindt Cafe in Sydney, where the gunman held his hostages, is foreign to me. But I was at a Lindt Cafe this summer in France.

Immediately after reading the article on Yahoo, I texted my brother and my sister in law. They were safe – they live hours away from Sydney. But there were other people who were not safe. Two of the hostages were killed.

This morning, I read through some articles about what was now being called the Sydney Siege. Siege, I thought, was a strange name for it; but then I looked up the definition of the word, and it made more sense.

By definition, siege is “the act or process of surrounding and attacking a fortified place in such as a way as to isolate it from help and supplies, for the purpose of lessening the resistance of the defenders and hereby making capture possible.” (dictionary.com)

The Lindt cafe certainly isn’t a fortified place, and the gunman was killed so we can only speculate about the purpose of the siege. But one likely purpose was just as the definition suggests – lessening the resistance of the defenders; in other words, scaring people. Making people back down.

Except… people didn’t back down. They stood up. Horrible things happened in Sydney, but out of these tragedies came something remarkably meaningful: a social media (and real life) movement, characterized by the hashtag #illridewithyou

When the news of the hostage situation first broke, one of the first details reported was that the gunman had a flag in the window, a black flag with white Arabic writing. This incited fears of terrorism, and it also simply incited fear in general – fear that the gunman was not acting alone, fear that something else was going to happen.

The ‘I’ll ride with you’ hashtag was started by a young women who offered to sit with people in religious clothing, who didn’t feel comfortable being alone or feared backlash. Thousands of other people have joined in, tweeting the transportation lines they use and offering for anyone to ride with them. The hashtag has been trending all day and, not going to lie, when I read through the tweets this morning I teared up a bit.

There is a post that I saw shared on facebook, and also in an article I came across online. It mentions the fact that terrorism will never work in Australia, because of their close friendships (or “mateships”, as the Aussie author puts it). The post also mentions how there was a different atmosphere on the subway – one where people would smile at strangers, one where people offered to sit with strangers so that they felt comfortable.

Australia has set an example for the rest of the world to follow.  In school we are taught that bullies are looking for a response. This gunman was the same way. The gunman tried to incite a fearful response and “lessen resistance to make capture possible”, but failed. Capture – of people’s minds and morals – was not what happened. Australians came together in an amazing way in light of a tragedy, and I hope that the rest of the world can learn from this.

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