Sometimes, strength of will defies even the most terrifying circumstances. One man has been identified as a fallen hero in the 16-hour-long hostage siege at the Lindt Cafe in Sydney: Cafe manager Tori Johnson reportedly tried to wrestle the shotgun from Islamic extremist Man Haron Monis, and was killed when the firearm went off. Johnson's act of bravery ultimately led the police to intervene and rescue the other hostages.
Lone gunman Monis took 17 people hostage inside the Lindt Cafe in Sydney on Monday, a siege that lasted into the early hours of Tuesday in Australia. At one point, cafe manager Johnson reportedly saw an opportunity to grab Monis' weapon, but was killed after it went off during the struggle. Johnson did not die in vain; his actions ultimately saved the day. The gunshot triggered the police's response to storm the cafe and free the remaining hostages. According to his coworkers, Johnson always put his employees first, and it was this selflessness that compelled him to stand up to the hostage taker and ultimately sacrifice his life.Former co-worker Peter Manettas told the Guardian:
He was a leader. He was a very selfless person, he always put his staff before anything else.
The 34-year-old Australian native also valued family, according to Manettas.
Family was very, very important to Tori. A day wouldn’t go by in the period that he was working with us that he would not mention his family.
In a brief statement, his parents said:
We are so proud of our beautiful boy Tori, gone from this earth but forever in our memories as the most amazing life partner, son, and brother we could ever wish for.
Lindt Chocolate Cafe Australia's CEO Steve Loane also issued a statement on the company's Facebook page, saying:
[Tori] was a dedicated professional who always built a great rapport with his customers and was much loved by the Lindt team. By nature he was a perfectionist and he had a genuine passion for the hospitality industry and people. He was a really important part of our management team in Australia and his loss is absolutely tragic.
Even before the hostage situation, Johnson had proved himself to be an everyday hero. In April, Johnson helped a 6-year-old boy have his first chocolate Easter egg. When Johnson heard that Henry Henchcliff, who has a rare condition that limits his diet, had never had the treat, he made it his mission to make him one. And when he heard that Henry's sister couldn't have dairy, he made one for her too.
Henry's mother told the Sydney Morning Herald:
It's definitely something that stuck out in [Henry's] mind as being one of his best days. It taught him that people go out of their way for people.... We are devastated to hear of his passing and wish to pass along our appreciation of him and our deepest condolences to his family. We will always remember him fondly.
Johnson had been working at the Lindt Cafe for just over two years when the incident occurred. Before that, he worked in other cafes around Sydney and with the Nicks Restaurant and Bar group. Johnson graduated from Washington State University magna cum laude in 2003 with a bachelor's degree in hotel and restaurant administration.
The cafe manager wasn't the only hero that day. A cafe patron, 38-year-old Katrina Dawson, a mother of three and a lawyer who taught kids how to conduct mock trials, reportedly was hit when trying to shield her pregnant friend from the gunfire. She later died in the hospital.
In the wake of such intense tragedy, it's comforting to know that there are people like Johnson and Dawson in the world.
Images: Tori Johnson/LinkedIn, Getty Images (3)