We stroll through Herrengasse in Graz, many are out on this Saturday under the almost clear sky and are happy about the beautiful day. We decide to sit down at a coffee shop in Kaiserfeldgasse. We talk about a lot of things. We notice the siren of an emergency vehicle. We keep on talking about other trivial things. Another siren.
He mutters ‘…there hasn't passes a tram in quite a while…'
Yet another siren. And another one. It turns into an endless sea of sirens. We catch the sight of ambulances rushing to Herrengasse. Followed by police cars, fire brigade and other vehicles with emergency lights flashing bright blue.
I get an uneasy feeling. What is going on there? What happened?
Just a few minutes ago we were at the main square, the Hauptplatz and looked at the booths of the Formula 1 that is held this very weekend in Austria. Afterwards we walked on Herrengasse towards the Jako square. On our way we ran across a friend of my parents whom I've known for ever. We stopped for a bit, talked. His daughter and wife are in one of the stores, he had to go back to the car to get another parking ticket. We said goodbye and continue to Kaiserfeldgasse.
Once we sit I write a message to his daughter telling her I'm just round the corner and would love to see her. She is happy about it and agrees to meet us. Of course I'm happy as well!
I write another message to a friend if he happens to know what's going on at the main square. He says no.
A woman runs past the terrace where we sit. ‘…Berserk driver … Herrengasse … now', those words are the only that I catch. I freeze.
‘We must go!' is what leaves my mouth in a trembling, but firm tone. He hasn't heard what the woman said. ‘There is an berserk driver in Herrengasse!!' He looks at me puzzled.
I try to find out on my laptop what's happening. ‘Oh no…' he says and shows me his phone. The screen shows Twitter and the search #Graz:
amor_fati: #berserkdriver in Herrengasse in #Graz?! According to eyewitnesses one dead child.
Dietmar Muchitsch: Just heard about a #berserkdriver in #Graz in Herrengasse
Flo M.: A car speeded on the #mainsquare in #Graz and injured many people. I'm glad I could jump out of his way…
My friend writes me that they won't come to Kaiserfeldgasse and are on their way on Herrengasse towards the main square. My heart stops. I try to call her but I reach only the mobile mail box. I try to reach her dad. He answers. I talk quickly ‘Take your girls and go!!'. I'm anxious! He tells me that both are okay, but witnessed the craziness. Both were on the other side of the street.
My friend: ‘He (my dad) just called. We'll meet on the main square. I'll see you next time!'
Me: ‘If you find out what's happening on the main square, please let me know'
Me: ‘Get away from the main square!!!' Immediately! There is a berserk driver! Take your mom and get inside somewhere!'
My friend: ‘We just witnessed it. We are both fine!'
Me: ‘What exactly happened?'
My friend: ‘The man was driving like a mad man with over 100 km/h in the pedestrian area and rammed pedestrians…'
I can't take it anymore. We get up and go towards Hans-Sachs-Gasse. More sirens. Again I'm terrified and hold his hand even tighter. I pull him towards me and bury my face in his left shoulder. I can't hold it together anymore and start to cry. ‘Why…' this is all I can think of.
He takes me to the book shop Moser to distract me and him. From the second floor I looks quickly down on Herrengasse. Everything is packed with police cars. Many people stand there and gawk. An ambulance tries to get through the people. They don't get out of the way. Fury comes up in me. ‘Get away, jerks!' is what I think.
After about half an hour we leave the book shop, the Herrengasse is still blocked. Pedestrians share news. Apparently two people have been killed so far, many more injured. We keep going and get another coffee – camomile tea for me this time.
A press conference is held at 5pm.
‘There is no explanation for this act. There is no excuse for this act.' says the governor Hermann Schützenhöfer.
Three died, more that 30 are injured, some still fight for their lives!
We decide it is time to leave the city centre and walk towards Jako. Again we have to pass Herrengasse. The police has put up fences so that curious bystanders can't disturb the helpers. In front of the fence people lay down flowers and lid candles. People get on their knees and pause for a moment.
Later a holy mass is held. The Herrengasse is opened again. Everywhere are people who bring more candles and more flowers.
I will never forget what happened in Graz today.
We all won't forget!