When I saw online that yet more suicide bombers had struck Australia’s near neighbour Indonesia on Friday, I sent Llew a text: Oh no. Terrorist attacks in Jakarta. An hour or so later, I was on the ferry into Circular Quay, but just before we crossed Sydney Heads, whales passed by, very near and very frisky. A pair of what I think were blue fins, heading straight for Manly Cove (they were off-course – they don’t usually come so far inside and around North Head). I’ve never been so close before. I was as excited as any tourist, and as I watched them rolling and spouting and waving, I thought about those poor people whose lives had just been shattered in Jakarta, and I stopped to appreciate that moment with the whales and be enormously thankful for it. I felt really emotional, watching the two whales play. They just seemed such a life force, and so much bigger than me.
Saturday morning I picked up The Weekend Australian, and there was a long moment of cold psychic confusion as I registered the familiar smiling face in the photo and then tried attaching its presence to the accompanying article. “Oh my god,” I said to Llew. “That’s Craig Senger. Oh no. Oh no.”
I rambled at him, but he was uncomprehending, unable to remember Craig, so I called my friend S and unfortunately was the one to tell her what was then the unconfirmed report that Craig was among the victims in Jakarta.
Craig Senger. I hadn’t seen him for years. The last time I did see him turned into a big night out with Craig, S, Llew and myself. S and Craig had reconnected at the 2003 wedding of a mutual friend, and when they arranged to meet up for drinks soon after, the invite was extended to us as S recalled I knew Craig from university days. The four of us met at Establishment for drinks, and then ended up at an Indian restaurant in Glebe several hours later. I hadn’t seen him in years, and I never saw him again, but it was great fun catching up with him that night, it was a real blast from the past, and there were a lot of laughs.
So to the past, when I knew Craig quite well. As university students, we worked together for years at the Park Royal Hotel in Canberra. We were both part of a large crowd of uni casuals who worked and socialised together on a regular basis. I remember Craig’s 21st birthday party vividly. His family pulled out all stops – it was held at an historic homestead, and was a lovely sit-down dinner with family and Craig’s many friends. I remember thinking, wow, imagine your family throwing you a party like this – an entirely alien concept to me. But here was an abundance of love and happiness, and they made being a tight-knit family look so easy. It was a great night.
I can see Craig so, so clearly in my mind’s eye. The first thing you need to know about Craig is that he was always smiling. I can see him waving down to us from the hotel’s Atrium Bar when we were down below in the restaurant. His cheeky, ready grin. I can see him spinning a tray, clicking his fingers, tapping his toes. He was always moving. One of those people who was so gregarious, so upbeat, that he never had time to stand still. There were too many things to do, things to see, people to meet, laughs to be had. Craig was incapable of malice or spite. He did not have a cruel or vindictive fibre. It just wasn’t who he was. He had an incredibly, notably sunny and warm disposition, and of course was someone who made friends easily and then treated them exceptionally well. A rugby enthusiast, Craig was a keen sportsperson but always retained an endearing gentleness. I don’t imagine any of these qualities changed in the years since I knew him. I can’t imagine that. They were such defining features of a person who was truly one of the good guys, and someone who adored being alive, and all the adventures and possibilities that living his life afforded.
Craig was a lovely guy, cut down in the prime of his life by fanatics. It’s not ever, will never be fathomable to me how one human being could do this to another, and it’s a foul thing, knowing how this good person and innocent civilian has died along with so many others around the world and across these long years of our collective history. It always amazes me that the bombers maintain enough rage to go through with it, and it amazes me because in the course of the everyday, just in the mundane dailiness of existence, people extend small kindnesses all along the way – surely these people receive such gestures too? It’s the basic decency of the majority that leaves me stumped as to how this deadly minority can maintain the rage and madness necessary to unleash these assaults on innocent human beings with no opportunity to defend themselves. This is not righteous, and it is far from holy.
I understand Craig’s father died suddenly just weeks ago, and my heart just breaks for his mum, who must be trapped in the worst, darkest nightmare, some dread place beyond imagining. I am so sorry for his wife, his whole family, his friends – all his loved ones, of which there must be – have always been – so many.
I know bad things happen all the time, and the scale of some human atrocities mean that people are sometimes quick to point out that this death toll isn’t much compared with some other horror. But it’s not a score-keeping exercise, and that logic badly misses the point. Which is that every life is worth the same as every other life, and every loss is felt as keenly by those who are left behind with their sorrow. I lost contact with Craig after moving back to Sydney, but I remember him so very fondly. I know his family must be as proud as they are devastated, and so they should be. Craig Senger was a hell of a human being.