Reflecting on the Bourke Street Mall tragedy
Wednesday 1 February 2017
Media and Communications Office
Over the weekend, Shane Healy
(Director of Media and Communications) attended 8.15am Mass at Our Lady of Fatima in Lorne. He was moved by the homily offered by Fr Walter (‘Wally’)
Tudor regarding the Bourke Street Mall tragedy. Since Sunday, there has been another
death resulting from the incident—a 33-year-old woman from Blackburn South, who
became the sixth victim.
The following homily is published
We have all been affected in some way by the very tragic
events that took place last Friday week in the Bourke Street Mall when five
people were killed and over 30 injured, at least two still serious in hospital.
I do not wish to speak about the act of evil by the person
who drove that car with the intention of harming and indeed killing—a man
seemingly psychologically disturbed.
I would rather share my reflections on the response of those
who witnessed this madness.
But first let me acknowledge the five persons who were
killed, including a baby and a child.
Zachary Bryant was only three months old, Thalia Hakin was
only 10, Jess Mudie from Sydney was only 22, an as-yet unnamed Japanese
citizen, who was only 25 and Melbourne father Matthew Si, who was only 33. We
wish them eternal peace.
The victims came from all different backgrounds, cultures
and religious affiliations.
At the memorial service held for the victims at Federation
Square, a young man by the name of Henry Dow, from the Colac district, spoke
about his experience as a witness to the tragedy and one of the first
responders: ‘I saw no evil on
Bourke Street on Friday. One young man did terrible thing and hundreds
responded with love and a sense of community which makes Melbourne such a
beautiful city and Victoria such a great state.’
Henry went on to describe a man, whom he knew only as Lou, a
taxi driver who took control of the situation immediately and called for people
to assist the injured. He wished he knew the name of that good man whom he
thought was a member of one of the emergency services, such was his efficiency.
A couple of days later the good Samaritan revealed himself
as Lou Bougias, who had military experience that enabled him to respond in the
positive way that he did.
Everyone came to the aid of injured people without thought
for their safety. It was the natural thing to do in the circumstances. Pharmacy
workers appeared with bandages, others appeared from shops with towels and
other items without giving a second thought as to the colour, religion or
culture of those lying in pain in need of compassion and care.
When the police and emergency services arrived in a very
short time, they worked together with the volunteers, not pushing them aside as
if they, the professionals, were the only ones that could help.
The outpouring of grief from friend and stranger alike
became immediately obvious and continued as the injured were moved to
hospitals. The floral tributes that appeared at the GPO and other places where
victims fell revealed the extent of compassion and grief of people reaching out
to people they did not even know.
Notes on flower arrangements expressed the sorrow and
feelings of empathy that people felt from all walks of life.
It leads us to the question of how we deal individually with
tragedy when it hits us.
At an international conference on media communication in
Rome last year, Pope Francis, looking into the eyes of leaders in communication
stressed that ‘the world needs a
revolution of tenderness’.
In the Bourke Street tragedy of last week, we saw that
tenderness at work in a deeply inspirational and compassionate way.
We have all been touched by this tragedy. Indeed, we are
continually touched by tragedy and difficulties throughout our lives.
So I want to leave you with a very meaningful quote from a
book written by Dutch priest and psychologist, Henri Nouwen, who died in 1996.
The book is fittingly entitled The wounded healer.
escapes being wounded. We are all wounded people, whether physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually.
question is not ‘How can we hide our wounds?’
so that we don’t have to be embarrassed but
‘How can we put our woundedness in the service of others?’
wounds cease to be a source of shame
and become a source of healing,
we have become wounded healers.
If you have been moved by a homily, please let us know. We would love to share it with others and help spread the heartwarming messages of our clergy. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.