Police Ribbon stating "Police do not cross"

Making Sense of the Senseless

It’s on my morning run. A leafy street that stretches 600 metres, with a welcome dip at the bottom, before it steadily climbs up the other side.

The odd worker’s cottage sits among the million-dollar homes; like the rest of Camp Hill, Raven Street has gone through gentrification.

Young families have moved in, renovating homes to catch a city view, an afternoon breeze and their own little piece of paradise.

Primary schools dot the suburb, and yesterday afternoon, parents lined up to collect their little ones. The flash of police lights, just up the road, told us all it wasn’t a normal day.

Mothers gathered along Raven Street, a couple holding a bunch of flowers from their back garden. Others just stood, staring, and trying to make sense of the senseless.

Laianah, Aaliyah and Trey were small children, who will never get to graduate from school, travel the world, marry the love of their lives, or grow old.

That doesn’t happen here, in Camp Hill. Not in our suburb. A car doesn’t explode in flames. Children don’t die. We look out for each other. It’s our home.

Caught up in their office jobs in the city, only six kilometres away, some only learnt that hell had dropped by after alighting from one of the dozens of Brisbane City Council buses rolling down Old Cleveland Road before sunset.

Many others knew, though, the moment it happened. The bang. The billowing smoke. The fire station is only one kilometre up the road, and the ambulance service not much further.

This is a place where neighbours look after one another, and as emergency calls were made, a couple of tradies dropped tools and wondered what they could do.

A local, seeing events unfold, raced to help. But the flames were too hot, too murderous, and he was forced back, sustaining burns, and needing medical help. A bucket and hose would never be declared the winner here.

Detective Inspector Mark Thompson spoke to the gathered media in quiet and measured terms. It was one of the most heartbreaking scenes he’d attended in a long career. Several emergency personnel were stood down later in the day, so that they could debrief and wrap their head around the impossible.

They’ll never forget yesterday, no matter how hard they try. The senseless death of three small children, who will fill our television screens and newspaper pages for the next few days.

Neither will friends of Hannah Clarke. Hannah’s smile jumped out at people; ask anyone she met. She was kind and encouraging. No mother should ever have to suffer in the way she did yesterday.

A police investigation will find out the back story to the events that changed Raven Street yesterday.

But that seems almost irrelevant today, because whatever the reason, the future for Laianah and Aaliyah and Trey’s future was stolen from them, at about the same moment the school bell rang out up the road yesterday morning.

The death of their mother makes this tragedy incomprehensible.

Last night, we probably all held our own children a touch tighter, many readying for those questions that simply have no answer.

Photograph of Madonna King

Madonna King is a leading journalist and commentator. An award-winning presenter of 612 ABC Brisbane, she has authored 12 books and now works across radio, television and online.

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