Last night, 6 December, I had to do something I hoped I never have to do, especially not in Australia. One of the first things I made sure to learn on my arrival into Australia was the emergency number. Here, it’s 000 instead of 911. And last night, I had to call it.
After an enjoyable two hours riding the newest E-Class tram, 6003, to East Brunswick and back, I took it a third time, but only up to Swanson Street. I originally needed to go to the library, but I wasn’t going to pass up giving 6003 a full test run, even if it meant getting to the library around quarter to 11pm. After making my return to the library (and clearing a very jammed after-hours drop in the process), I stopped by Brunetti for a quick late night snack. After that, it was time to head home again. And by pure chance, it would be on tram 6003 again.
When I arrived at the stop (Swanson and Bourke), it was roughly 11:10pm and there was a fair number of people waiting. There were about to be a lot more in the area. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone come running along the platform, holding a curved metal pole with the end coloured white.
And then it started. The man holding the pole began running around hitting people. When he started coming towards me, I moved, and could only watch as he began hitting other people, one a man sitting on the bench at the tram stop, another, someone outside of the Starbucks, in plain view of an employee that was sweeping up and who attempted to confront him.
By then, it was obvious to the people nearby something was going on. A crowd began forming and I began reaching into my pocket for my phone, hoping I still had enough battery to call 000. I did. So at 11:15pm, my call began. I wasn’t aware you were connected to an operator who then connected you to either the fire brigade, police, or emergency services, so when my call connected, the first thing I said was:
“Yes, I’m at the corner of Swanson and Bourke. There’s a man running around hitting people with a metal pole.”
Operator: “Please hold for the police.”
I had to hold for about two minutes before the police finally came on the line, while the operator kept asking me to continue to hold. As I was holding, police began coming into the area.
“Police, go ahead.”
After the operator gave some string of numbers, I began explaining what was going on.
Police: “Do you know which way he was heading?”
“I think it’s East. It was towards Russell Street.”
“Do you know if anyone is in need of an ambulance? I’m updating the police in the area now.”
“Uh, not that I can see, no. But I’m not really sure.”
“OK. Do you know what the man looked like?”
“It was an African-American male.” (I realized after I hung up that they probably have a different word here in Australia).
“What was he wearing?”
“To be honest, I didn’t really get a good look, my first thought was to get out of his way. I want to say he was maybe hooded.”
“And did you notice what colour?”
“Uh,, I think it was maybe stripped. I see you have a camera on the traffic signal here; you might have been able to see it on there.”
That’s the extent of the conversation that I can remember (slightly paraphrased). Needless to say, my first thought after “get out of his way” was “call triple-oh.” And I’m glad I did. While there were plenty of people in the area trying the flag down the police, I didn’t see anyone at the stop who were reaching for their phone. Given that the police had just passed through, flagging them down was apparently good enough to at least get reinforcements in the area.
So why am I writing this? Obviously, I didn’t notice everything that was going on. But, I do hope this post manages to end up on Google as related to the incident and does get picked up by police to further help. Or for that matter, anyone that can fill in my gaps.