I was sitting up in bed reading a book this morning at about 2am when I was scared witless by a massive bang. This was followed moments later by what sounded moments later like hail falling on our roof and an awful lot of glass breaking.
I attempted to get out of bed, but moments later Miranda came rushing into my room. She was clearly terrified, but wasn’t screaming. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so white.
Miranda’s room was a mess. The mattress had been blown off the window it had been sticky taped to, and pieces of glass and other debris were all over the floor around where the mattress landed.
It was clear that the Mattress had taken most of the impact of the shattering glass from the window. I also noticed that embedded into the mattress was something that looked rather like half of an empty tin of cat food, which appeared to have been burnt.
Off in the distance there was the sound of approaching sirens. I could also hear voices and people running past our house outside. I wasn’t sure if they were running from, or towards something.
I grabbed my jacket and slipped into a pair of shoes, and went outside to see what was going on. I locked the door behind me; worried that Miranda may still be in some kind of danger.
The power had been out since 8pm yesterday, and all I could see was a sea of torches dancing around in the dark, most of which appeared to be heading in the same direction down the street. So I just followed the crowd.
I could make out a fiery glow between some of the houses, and it appeared to be coming from somewhere just around the corner from my house. I made my way there with the rest of the crowd, only to find that the local corner shop was heavily ablaze.
Or at least it was whereour corner shop once was. The building appeared to be ripped in half. Contents of the store lay on the road about the shop, many of them burning. Bricks and other debris covered the streets.
Most of my neighbours were standing in a ring around the building, keeping a reasonably safe distance while watching it burn. There were three bodies on the ground in front of the store. Two of them appeared to be on fire, while a third, located a bit further away from the building was lying in a pool of blood.
Nobody spoke. There was the occasional gasp of ‘Oh my god’, but no one could find the words to express what they were thinking at that exact moment.
I could see one of the corrugated iron sheets that the shopkeeper had bolted across the front window to stop people breaking in, had crashed through the door of the house opposite the shop. The occupants of the house were inspecting the damage to their property with fatigued bewilderment. Their belongings scattered and their windows blasted from existence. Still, it appeared no one in the house had been injured.
Out of the corner of my eye I noticed some movement where I hadn’t expected it. The man that was sprawled out on the road in a pool of his own blood began to move. Most of the crowd amassed around the shop noticed it too. All of them in unison made an involuntary half step back away from the man.
He groaned a bit at first, and then flapped his hands around uselessly. His legs didn’t move. He was so covered in ash and bloodied silt that it was hard to make out the features of his face.
‘Help me’, he moaned. ‘I can’t see, help me’.
He rolled over, trying to pull his way along the ground. ‘I can hear you breathing, someone help me’ he said with strained tones. Clearly gasping and holding onto his life.
No one could bring themselves to go and help the man. Most of us were just standing around in our panamas, keeping warm with a jacket or blanket. We were completely unprepared for this.
It felt like I was being cruel, and at the same time I felt totally powerless to do anything else. This man was dying and I couldn’t bring myself, or try and convince anyone else to help him.
The fire trucks arrived and were quickly followed by the ambulance and eventually the police. Even they were surprised to find this man half alive on the ground, struggling with life.
The police very quickly pushed us well away from the area. Apparently there was a suspicion that there may be some undetonated explosives on the site.
It’s kind of funny, but it hadn’t occurred to me to think about what might have caused such a horrific amount of damage. I felt that it was almost as though it was expected to happen at some point. Although maybe it was just the early hours of the day and I was just in a bit of a dream state.
Later this morning I was listening to the radio at work. The explosion was the hot topic of the day with the morning DJ’s making plenty of jokes about it while the news casters devoting almost 5 minutes to the story every hour.
The man we saw dying in the street apparently had died. But not before he divulged that he and has mates thought it was a good idea to detonate some gas cylinders that they had pinched. They were doing this in an attempt to crack open the front of the shop, so that they could steal cigarettes and whatever else, with the intention of selling them and making some money.
Although the story seems fit for a Darwin award, it’s really just a sign of how tragic the situation is becoming here in Brisbane while the uncertainty of the war rages around us. This story isn’t all that different to the some of the tragic insurance claims that are still piling up on my desk every day.
Even if we aren’t in the thick of battle, the war is clearly hitting home.