Heartbreaking reason Aussies returned to Bondi Junction Westfield today

On a Thursday, Bondi Junction Westfield usually buzzes with people wandering around the centre.

Retirees are getting coffees, busy workers are popping in to get groceries and shoppers are enjoying the centre’s many retail outlets.

Today, all the shops were closed, the centre was mostly empty, lifeline counsellors were walking around offering their services, and the coffee was free.

It was eerily different.

The centre reopened today at 11am for a “community reflection day”, five days after the mass stabbing that claimed the lives of six people.

Queensland man Joel Cauchi, 40, stabbed 18 people – including 15 women and a nine-month-old baby girl – during a violent rampage at the shopping centre on Saturday afternoon.

He was shot dead by hero NSW Police Inspector Amy Scott.

Dozens of Aussies turned up at the centre to pay their respects today. Some came with friends or family, and others walked the shopping centre alone.

Mourners came with flowers and laid them out where a floral arrangement had been placed to pay respects for those who lost their lives.

The shopping centre looked the same, with the same glossy floors and unfaltering fluorescent lighting, but it also felt different.

People weren’t just there making a beeline for David Jones or Kmart; they were there to grieve.

Bondi Junction Westfield reopens after horrific attack

Usually, when you go to a shopping centre, you overhear people discussing what to buy or children’s pleas to go to McDonald’s.

Today, the conversations were much more sombre. People were discussing their grief, their shock, their concerns that it happened so close to home and how a place that had always felt safe and familiar had become somehow unfamiliar, a place they’re have to get used to again.

How do you pop into Kmart or grab a bite at the food court when you know what happened on April 13, 2024?

One young mum, accompanied by her primary school-aged son, told news.com.au that she’d come to the reflection day to “retrace her steps”.

The local had been at the mall when the stabbing took place. She heard the gunshot when she was exiting David Jones just metres from where it went off.

Her son wasn’t with her, instead, he was at the toy shop upstairs with a friend. It only took minutes for them to reunite, but she remembers every second of it.

She was running towards her son for those two minutes, instead of away from the unknown danger. She said all she could feel was “horror”.

The mum came today to try to get used to the shopping centre again. It’s her local, and she understands she’ll want to return and take advantage of the amenities, but she thought it might help her process what happened.

“My son wouldn’t come with me, so I’m with my other son,” she said.

Similarly, another mum was also there with her young son. She said they had decided to come today because he was in the centre at the time of the massacre.

The pair wandered through the mall, trying to take the feelings of fear out of walking through the building.

The mum said that her son was so close to the massacre when it happened that it was just a “matter of moments” that meant he stayed safe.

She said they came today to try and make some peace with the “what ifs” that have been running through their heads ever since.

People were sombre as they walked through the shopping centre today, some had tears in their eyes, others had stoic faces.

One woman told news.com.au said she was returning to the centre with her toddler because she works there and wanted to get used to going inside again after the tragic events.

Another man said he felt compelled to come today because “everyone in Sydney has been to Bondi Junction at some point”.

He noted it felt “weird” to be here but he thought it was important the victims didn’t go “unseen”.

Similarly, a young woman that works down the road in nearby Eastgate shopping centre told news.com.au she was here today to “pay her respects” she also noted it felt like the “safest” day to return to the shopping centre because of the police presence.

Tomorrow, Bondi Junction Westfield will officially reopen, and shoppers will start to return, but that doesn’t mean anyone will ever forget.