I observe a personal remembrance of that week in Turkey, but in my case it was in April 2001. It was a harrowing experience in which I was taken hostage by Chechen terrorists and walked from my hotel room in Istanbul by two men with rifles, at midnight!
Dead to the world in a comfortable bed at last, I am roused by a knocking, and a quiet voice on the other side of the door. “We need you to get dressed and come to the lobby. There’s an emergency.”
Drowsily, but with haste, I dress, and thinking that there is a fire, open the door and ask, “Why?”
Composed, the hotel clerk softly answers, “There are men in the hotel with guns”.
At which point, two, silent, well-dressed men in dark suits and double-barrelled assault rifles across their chests materialise from the shadows. A few long steps down the hall I am passed over to another seemingly more silent and ominous gunman in the lift, who escorts me downstairs with hands above my head. So far, I am responding like clockwork. I feel no fear. These ‘men in suits’ do not fit the terrorist stereotype. In retrospect, this first impression belied the menace that should rightly have been identified with an armed siege.
In the lobby, there are more gunmen patrolling. They’re bearded and much wilder-looking this time – flak jackets but no balaclavas.
“What to think? Who are these people? What next?” Thoughts start racing through my head. My first is that they were supporters of the jailed Kurdish leader. But still there is no real fear.
“Lay face down on the carpet and be still!”, is the unmistakably unspoken order, as I see uniformed hotel staff already stretched out, side by side amongst plates of uneaten cakes and drinks on surrounding tables of the cavernous white marble Lounge area
, doing just that. I am one of the first guests downstairs, and I draw a blank as to how the remaining one hundred or so arrive . . . .
I received a phone call from my cousin Ann Waddington (nee Musgrave) at the end of the 2019 school year. Her son Sam had to complete a video for a school project based on someone he knew who had been part of a terrorist incident. Ann recalled that Channel 9 footage from my being taken hostage by Chechen terrorists in Istanbul just before Anzac Day in 2001, and suggested that Sam consider interviewing me.