A cafe is supposed to be a place of respite. A break from the day to day to relax, to take a quick work pause or to catch up with a friend.
But on Monday December 15th, 2014 at the Lindt Cafe in Sydney, Australia, this was not to be.
A gunman walked into the cafe and took 17 hostages. The siege lasted over 16 hours during which a few hostages managed to escape. As the gunman started to get tired, Tori Johnson, the cafe manager saw an opportunity. He jumped the assailant and attempted to wrestle the gun away from him. In the struggle that ensued, three shots went off and killed Tori Johnson.
The police stormed in as soon as gunfire was heard, shot the gunman and rescued the hostages. Another hostage, Katrina Dawson, a 38 year old lawyer and mother of three children, was also killed, reportedly while trying to protect a pregnant friend.
Tori Johnson was 34. He graduated magna cum laude with a BA in hotel and restaurant administration from Washington State University. Those who knew him described him as a good man and a perfectionist with a genuine passion for hospitality.
Had Tori been just a customer would he also have stood up to the attacker? Probably. He seems like that kind of stand up guy. But we can also imagine that as the manager, he felt a special responsibility for the safety of his customers. Not only that, but Tori had been the manager of Cafe Lindt for two years. When someone buys the same coffee from you every day, you cease to be ‘staff’ or ‘server’ and start becoming friends. Many of the customers that time of day were probably regulars – friends who Tori felt compelled to protect.
To us, Tori’s death protecting his customers illustrates the human behind the server. We hope his legacy reminds us all that behind every hospitality worker stands a person.
Tori was a cafe manager until Monday. Now he’s a hero. May he rest in peace.