i walk on hope street.

I engaged in a lot of hope the past week.

It has been unprecedented and thick between my ears. Hope; the word and the sentiment,  has been dangled cautiously over my fair city since last weekend, when we heard the desperate plea of a young husband who had not heard from his beautiful wife Jill in 2 days…

The news report speared through my living room on the Sunday evening. In my house the TV is rarely on, but on this night my husband Dan and I had reluctantly opened the box to catch a Russell Brand interview on 60minutes. …then…in the wake of  our giggles… there he was, Tom Meagher. Pale-faced and child-like, just the way my Dan looks when he is worried. The gently-handsome Irishman spoke of his wife’s failure to return from their local pub on Friday night; a failure to make the 700metre journey home. My stomach dropped. I snuck a glance at Dan but we were both speechless. Aside from “..fuck” , nothing more was spoken. In fact, the tv went off and we went our separate ways. We had been served up a big piece of worry pie.

We were worried for different reasons. Dan, for the fear of being helpless, like Tom, in the possible event of my disappearance; and myself, for the fear of no longer feeling safe to be as independent as I pride myself on. We recognised a man in a relationship much like our own, and we worried for him.

The story of Tom’s nightmare had so many discernible elements for Dan and me.  It blanketed our hearts during the long week following, and we became obsessed. Constantly checking for updates on the internet, mapping out the area in our minds, casting our memories over all the times when texts weren’t returned, or phones were switched off. We walked through the week together with Tom, we walked through the week with hope. Painfully drawn from an insurmountable bundle of negative emotions, the hope was still present.

In this last week of September hope was ever-present in our city. It was almost burdensome. But with it came the reward of solidarity, as we were all feeling the same hope.

We, Melbourne, were all walking down hope street last week.

It was a tough week. But, for the first time, since I’d moved to Melbourne in 1993, the city felt like a small country town. And with the uneasy and painful truths that were being unveiled about what darkness existed in our streets, also came a sense of togetherness amongst friends, colleagues and neighbours.

What was it that brought us all together? What was it that made us a community?

Was it the pretty face of a happy Irish girl, the incomprehensible brave face of a terrified husband, the sobering CCTV footage of a face-less predatory monster at work, or the face of our fear ; the fear of our streets being taken by a darkness...

I believe the people of Melbourne, and the whole of Australia, were affected by this story because of the pure normality of it all. It was a tragedy we could all relate to.

It awakened our senses as a community, and shooed away an oppressive presence of apathy that had begun to cloud over our city. This terribly scary and real thing happened on our streets, in our neighbourhood, in front of our eyes, to one of our own. This scary event had one perpetrator… but it had a myriad of paths leading the perpetrator to victim.

Perhaps that very darkness we all feared throughout the week, was in fact our apathy. Perhaps we all latched onto this heartbreaking event so vehemently, as we felt some of those paths could have been blocked. Perhaps we felt that those potential roadblocks may have been overlooked by our collective apathy. And perhaps a little of our hope was spawned from a little guilt.

However the feeling came to be, and whatever emotion it may have been, that brought us to awaken our community, I now carry the hope that it does not leave us anytime soon. I would like to believe that the strength that has been shown by my city this past week will shine a light on our dark streets.

I summon the strength of my community to keep that light shining.

I, like many others, will never forget this week, and as a result I will do my utmost to look out for my neighbours…And, to keep my fear at bay, I will assume they are looking out for me.

I wish to walk when I want to walk; and I would like to think that when I walk alone, I can walk with conviction… and not merely with hope.

rest in peace jill meagher.

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