I don’t know what just reminded me of the hostage drama that I was a victim of while working for Independent Newspapers in 2007.
I never knew that so many people cared about me. I didn’t know I had so many friends. My phone was ringing non-stop, I’m surprised my battery didn’t fail me, as if it knew what was going on.
It seemed like a prank at first when someone shouted that there was a man holding a gun in the building. “We are used to this”, I thought, “people come in here all the time and tune us shit”, and I continued with my work.
The noise gained momentum and there was commotion in the office but as I looked at my colleague who was a lot calmer. I convinced myself that this was going to end in no time. There was a gunman in our building, the Pretoria news on Vermeulen street, Pretoria CBD! He was holding the lady from the Advertising Unit – on the first floor – hostage. I was on the second floor, in Editorial, just a few steps from where all the hard- core drama unfolded.
Someone called the police. I heard the sirens. Everyone was on their cellphones. Then we lined up on the window to see what was happening down there. The crowds on the streets were increasing. They were gesturing up at us. Then I started to get really scared. I wanted to call my mom but I stopped myself because I didn’t want to worry her.
I shortly changed my mind. I called. My little sister answered, and my eyes just filled with tears. My voice trembled. She didn’t say much but I could hear that she was taking me seriously and she feared for me. Time seemed to pass by so slowly, more and more police vans came through. The gunman was still in our building. We heard a loud bang.
Then he fired a shot. “That is a gun. He definitely fired,” a male colleague said. He firstly shot at the ceiling; then he shot a policeman on the leg.
Drama! We were all petrified but still one guy managed to ask “How’s the cricket score going”. You see, a journalist must never leave his/her sense of humour behind.) Australia was playing against South Africa.
Radios stations started calling in. ,Phones rang off the hook. The fear grew bigger and stronger. I thought “God I don’t want to die like this”. The gunman released a pregnant woman, then the second two followed, then the rest.
A policeman came to our floor and said we could also evacuate the building. Damn finally, I grabbed everything on my desk and ran. Flip, my keys fell. Something told me to forget them and run for my life, then I wondered how I would get into my flat. I ran back, grabbed them and followed the rest of the staffers down the stairs.
Outside, on-lookers were all over the place. It felt like in the movies. People were crying. I just wanted to go home and forget about it all.
This man was apparently angry about the crime. It seemed he had been a victim of crime numerous times and he was just fed up. Apparently he said that he came to our offices knowing that we would listen. He said he wanted to make us feel how it felt like to be a victim of crime, as if crime is the fault of the media. We simply report of the matter. We are not responsible for it. We are as concerned as him. He asked what the Government would do if he cracked.
We were all out, but the man was still roaming around in the building. As I left, I kept on looking back, just in case a bomb exploded. I felt relieve overwhelm me. I could not believe I was walking away from all of it.
I was scared to go to my flat, afraid of being by myself, incase the whole drama re-played itself in my head. So I went to a reliable music warehouse store, I wanted an Enya CD to calm my nerves. They didn’t have it. I didn’t want to leave the store without any CD, so I bought the Skwatta Kamp’s latest offering at the time.
Then I got home. My phone ringing off the hook. One call after the other. The news made headlines. Every station was talking about us.
The following morning, a day after the ordeal, as I was looking out the window, everything was back to normal. It was business as usual. No one would really believe that that was the place that was crowded with police vans and people the previous day. All was just well. Indeed, Life goes on!