As Sydney went into lock down on Monday in the grip of a hostage drama, many of us held our breath and watched.
We felt fear for those held inside the Lindt Cafe at gunpoint and compassion for their loved ones struggling to understand what was happening.
Regardless of our individual faith or lack of it, we sent out prayers and hopes for their release and an end to the terror.
Tragically, the siege ended in the early hours of Tuesday with two hostages killed, four people injured and the gunman dead.
As the nation unites in mourning, the outpouring of love and support evident in the mass memorial that sprang up in Martin Place within hours yesterday is a heartening reminder of our solidarity.
As a nation we have known terror before at the hand of a lone gunman.
The 1996 Port Arthur massacre that claimed 35 people and injured 21 and the Monash University shooting in 2002 when two were killed and five injured are just two that spring to mind.
What set this week’s hostage horror apart was the fear that it was a terrorist attack sanctioned by an Islamic extremist group.
We feared that organised terror of the kind that tore apart London, Bali and Madrid may have arrived on our doorstep.
And simmering underneath that fear was a concern there might be reprisals against the Australian Muslim community.
But Australians are a largely a resilient, and tolerant bunch.
Nothing said that more than the simple act of a Brisbane woman on a Queensland train who saw a Muslim woman, fearing for her safety, remove her headscarf after reading of Monday’s siege on her mobile phone fearing for her safety.
The commuter’s simple offer to walk with the passenger if she felt unsafe touched the hearts of many and sparked an online revolution.
Using the Twitter hashtag #Illridewithyou, people all over Australia stood up to racism and terrorism, vowing not to let one man’s hatred divide a nation.
Amid a tragic situation came the confirmation of our true Australian spirit.
In the words of NSW Premier Mike Baird:
“The values we held dear yesterday, we hold dear today. They are the values of freedom, democracy and harmony. These defined us yesterday, they will define us today, they will define us tomorrow.”
In a Snap