I barely recognised the Barbara Olsen that I’ve seen on the TV all afternoon. The woman I knew was a bit shy, but always pleasant and courteous.
You may see Barbara as something else, so I feel I should tell you a little more about her. She has worked in the same company as myself for years, and was the receptionist for the accounting department.
Barbara had one son. She’d spent years struggling with IVF treatment just to have that son, even travelling to Greece to receive treatment. She was always polite and courteous to everyone, but had a persistence and determination that occasionally got people offside.
Barbara’s husband unfortunately died a few years ago in an accident at work. Ever since then Barbara hadn’t had quite the same pleasant air about her, as thought part of her generous spirit had been burned. But she still attended church every week, went to trivia every Wednesday and still kept that pleasant yet professional air with everyone she spoke to at work.
I only knew it was the same Barbara Olsen the TV, because she was holding the same knitted bag that she’d used to carry her lunch to work every day. I’d never have expected in a million years that she’d use it to carry a handgun. She usually dressed very meticulously, but the woman on the screen had chaotic hair and dishevelled attire. There was clearly something very wrong.
I was in the office, watching the Pay TV with Jeremy in the meeting room this morning I heard that Barbara had gotten a letter that her son had been killed in Japan. Louisa had been on the phone to her at the time that she received the letter, and said that Barbara just simply told her what the letter said in a matter of fact tone, then hung up abruptly.
I have no idea what happened in the hours after that, but the security camera caught the last few minutes of her life this afternoon. A video of which has been broadcast hundreds of times since on almost every form of media available.
This afternoon Barbara walked into the Strathpine army recruiting office and started yelling at two of the recruiters (there is no audio on the security footage). She then began crying and shaking uncontrollably, buckling over in emotion. One of the Recruiters moved around behind her to put a consoling arm around her. But before he could, she reached into her knitted back and then dropped the bag on the floor revealing a handgun.
She shot the recruiter that had been moving up behind her, shot the other recruiter and then moments later she shot herself.
The news has been painting her as someone completely different to the woman I knew. She apparently had a mental illness and was ‘known to authorities’. She had supposedly spent a substantial amount of time in an institution, although the institution wasn’t named.
The news didn’t mention her son’s death; the news also didn’t mention that she spent hours volunteering at community events. She was however demonised as an anti-war protestor with a mental illness. She apparently had been sending aggressive letters to the army making un-named and reportedly unreasonable demands. All of which doesn’t seem anything like the woman I knew.
She isn’t named very often in the Media; she is instead repeatedly named as a ‘Mentally Ill Anti-War protestor’.
I feel sad for Barbara. Her mental illness, which she must have suffered with in silence with for years, appears to be being used as a propaganda exercise. Her death was truly tragic, as was the death of her Son. But to use it to paint anti-war protestors as mentally ill is just appalling.
I expect to hear all kinds of rumours coming out at work in the next few days, but I feel sad that I was never able to do something to help Barbara when she was alive.