16 February 2012
DARWIN is bustling in the lead-up to commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the day war came to our shores.
The town is in the grips of a build-up which begs sanctuary indoors and away from the formidable combination of a scorching sun and unflinching humidity. Despite this, the town's been overrun by journalists from television stations, newspapers, and radio stations from across the country, and even a few from across the globe.
It was surreal to be standing in front of the Territory's Legislative Assembly earlier today - the site of which took a direct hit. As I was looking towards Government House - the residence of the Administrator - thinking about how different the whitewashed walls must have looked after this building also took a direct hit, the silence was pierced by a practice run of the air-raid siren. The hairs on the back of my neck stood and a chill ran down my spine. The time it took me to pinpoint what direction it had come from was generously more than the 8000 residents had when they heard the same siren in 1942 - bombers already dropping their deadly load.
Growing up in the Territory, the annual anniversary is very much a part of our DNA. A time of reflection, but moreover, a time when we can take stock of the psychological impact that bombing had. I've had the opportunity to interview a number of witnesses and relatives of victims throughout my career as a journalist. What's always struck me is the graciousness with which these stories are told. I interviewed a Larrakia elder, who goes only by Nanna Alice, who told of her story as a member of the Stolen Generation, living on the Tiwi Islands when the Japanese bombers flew over early in the morning of February 19. She relived how she looked up and waved, receiving an enthusiastic wave back - only to find out later that the pilot waving to her was about to unleash horror on the mainland, not too far away.
It's the rehearsing of the Darwin Chorale and the Australian Army Band now, which bring me back, to a steamy day in Darwin, as preparations are underway to mark what some describe as "Australia's forgotten story". Organisers, historians, and most importantly, veterans and witnesses hope, the events of this weekend will change that.
Comments are moderated and will not appear until they have been approved.