Florist Tony Scaltriti has had the busiest week all year selling flowers. Photo: Michelle Mossop Cyclists who rode from Lakemba Mosque to Martin Place. Photo: supplied
They came in their thousands. Lining up in the summer sun for up to half an hour for the chance to leave their tributes to Sydney’s siege victims.
The heavy scent of the growing floral shrine filled Martin Place on Sunday, as the extraordinary outpouring of public grief continued unabated.
People left flowers, notes, flags, soft toys, Lindt chocolates, and coffee cups, many posing for photos as they did so.
One woman, still in her wedding gown, brought in her bouquet to leave at the site.
A framed photograph of victims Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson sits in front of the Lindt cafe, a tribute from “the Islamic Family of Australia”.
It reads: “To: Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson. You both are Australians of the Century.”
“Al Quran [quote from the Koran]: Whoever saves one (Life) – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.”
As the visitors filed past, they stopped to bow their heads at the photo, and many made a sign of the cross before moving on.
People came from across Sydney, from Cremorne to Hinchinbrook and Engadine, to lay flowers, and be a part of the community response to the siege.
Martin Place florist Tony Scaltrito said it had been like five Valentines Days in a row, and he had sold at least three thousand bunches of flowers since the siege – about three times more than usual in the week leading up to Christmas.
“Valentines Day is our busiest day but it’s been like that every day,” he said.
His sons, wife and daughters-law had worked around the clock to source extra flowers from markets and growers throughout Sydney. But he had completely run out of flowers twice a day since Tuesday.
Cheryl and Mark, who travelled from Milperra to lay a large bunch of pink lilies, embraced afterwards, with tears in their eyes.
“It just makes you appreciate what you have got,” Mark said. “I just feel so much for the families. It’s very humbling”.
Premier Mike Baird confirmed on Sunday that the government would keep the flowers and tributes in place “as long as we possibly can”.
“Clearly, it is a symbol of hope for the city at the moment, it is something that people are still being moved by, it is a very special spirit we are seeing down there,” Mr Baird said.
The site was eerily silent for much of the morning, as visitors walked wordlessly through the tributes.
Early in the morning, almost 100 cyclists from Sydney Muslim Cyclists and Bicycle NSW visited the site. Sophie Bartho, of Bicycle NSW, said the group had started off with about 50 people at Lakemba Mosque, but had been joined by 25 to 50 more as they cycled to the siege site.
“I’m not a Muslim but I just rocked up to Lakemba … and it was extraordinarily powerful, it felt like family,” she said. “I came here the other day with my children and all I could feel was grief, but today there was this sense of hope from coming together with people.”
with staff reporters