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'She was destined to change the world': Families mourn Australian siege heroes

Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson were laid to rest today.
Dec 23rd 2014, 9:34 AM 12,419 14

THE VICTIMS OF last week’s siege in Sydney have been laid to rest.

A funeral mass was held for Lindt café manager Tori Johnson today, while a memorial service was heard in honour of barrister Katrina Dawson.

Both were killed after being held for 16 hours by gunman Man Haron Monis who was also killed when police stormed the building.

Australia is remembering the pair as heroes for the actions they took during the tragedy. It is understood that 34-year-old Johnson attempted to take Monis’s weapon off him and that Dawson died while trying to protect her pregnant friend from gunfire.

Australia Sydney Siege An image of Tori Johnson is projected onto the wall of St Stephens church. Source: Rob Griffith

Johnson’s funeral mass was held just minutes away from where he was killed in the city centre. The private ceremony was directed by Australia’s White Lady funeral directors who say they offer a special, softer and female-only approach to services.

Several of the other hostages attended the funeral, during which mourners heard about the importance of unity.

The Johnson family used a phrase by a Persian poet Rumi on the front page of the service booklet:

Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I will meet you there.

Australia Sydney Siege Source: Rob Griffith

The memorial service for Katrina Dawon was held at Sydney University’s Great Hall with up to 1,000 mourners, including Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

In emotional speeches, Dawson’s family and friends fought back tears as they spoke of her intelligence, generous spirit and deep love for her children.

“She was destined to change the world, just not the way it’s happened,” her older brother Sandy Dawson said.

Australia Police Operation Source: Rob Griffith

Meanwhile, a decision has been taken to remove the thousands of flower bouquets left at the siege site as tributes to the victims.

According to ABC News, the family agreed for their removal because of a rain forecast.

Volunteers boxed the flowers up, separating notes and cards for preservation.

“The cards will be brought together and put into a book which will ensure that the family members will see forever the tributes that have flowed from this great city and the people that make up this great city over the past few days, “ New South Wales Premier Mike Baird said.

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Although Australia has not officially branded the Sydney siege a terrorist attack, the Prime Minister has warned of heightened ”terrorist chatter” in its aftermath.

“A briefing from the security agencies today indicated that there has been a heightened level of terrorist chatter in the aftermath of the Martin Place siege,” Abbott said after a meeting of his National Security Committee.

That’s why it’s important that people remain alert and aware as well as reassured that our police and security agencies are doing everything they humanly can to keep us safe.

Abbott did not raise Australia’s terror alert level beyond its current high, which means an attack is likely. An extreme alert level means one is imminent or has occurred.

“I am alerting people to the fact that the terror threat remains high and as you all understand, at this level, an attack is likely,” he said.

Monis, who was known to authorities, was on bail at the time for a string of charges, including sexual offences and abetting the murder of his ex-wife.

Abbott has ordered an urgent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the siege.

With reporting by AFP 

Read: Dad and two young sons survive 10 days in hostile Australian outback

More: Mother charged with murder of eight children in Australia

Related: New footage emerges of police storming Sydney siege café with sniper waiting opposite

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