At Bondi, best and worst of humanity

Justine Toh reels from the stabbings at Bondi Junction and finds hope in the courageous acts of regular bystanders.

We’re still reeling.

Five women dead in a senseless attack, plus a male security guard. Survivors are in hospital, including a 9-month-old baby girl. How could a weekend trip to the shops end in such tragedy?

Police are now investigating whether Joel Cauchi targeted women: an appalling possibility, but not without precedent. Mental illness is certainly part of the mix here, but if gender proves a factor – note: still an “if” at this point – then we must hang our heads in shame at male violence against women.

We probably should in any case: a woman is killed every nine days in Australia by a man she knows. A shocking statistic.

The event, while unspeakably awful, also demonstrated bravery and heroism in spades – not necessarily defined by gender. Inspector Amy Scott ran to the scene immediately and acted decisively to stop Cauchi hurting anyone else. Someone give Inspector Scott a medal already.

French construction worker Damien Guerot, dubbed “Bollard Man” by fans on social media, fended off Cauchi on an escalator, preventing him from reaching an area where kids were, according to news reports. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is now ready to fast track any visa or citizenship application Guerot makes.

On Saturday, once Cauchi no longer posed a threat, footage of a man ushering his adolescent kids from the shopping centre went viral. This quick-thinking dad had found eye masks to guard their eyes from horrors no one should ever see.

We’re buoyed, rightly, when people willingly put themselves in the path of danger to shield vulnerable others. It’s what Jesus defined as the greatest love of all: to lay down one’s life for the sake of another.

Last Saturday, Bondi captured the best and worst of humanity. Here’s to those who endangered themselves to protect others.

This column first appeared on Facebook.