(Seven Network/CNN) — Greg Parker played a critical role during the siege of a cafe in Sydney, Australia.
Parker is not a police officer, but a cameraman for Australia’s Seven Network, and it was his camera skills that helped police keep tabs on the situation during the 16-hour siege.
The veteran cameraman has been around the block, seeing both good and evil, but never this close to home.
Within minutes of the attack at the Lindt cafe, Parker had three cameras, including one with a powerful 600-millimeter lens, framed on the four coffee shop windows.
When police snipers arrived to take up position in the newsroom just across the street from the cafe, they saw immediate value in keeping Parker at their side.
It was soon just Parker, a police sniper and a police technician in the eerie quiet of an empty newsroom. For 16 hours, Parker quietly fed his remarkable, chilling images, to police headquarters.
“In 20 years, it’s very rare to come across such upsetting footage,” Parker said. “There’s nothing you can do.”
As the world watched the chaos and the heartbreak of Australia’s biggest city grappling to come to grips with terror, Parker and the police sniper watched quietly just meters from the scene.
“For a real long time, it was just him and I — for five or six hours, making small talk, and to be honest, the situation kept us pretty busy because we were both looking for any opportunity that was going to affect a positive outcome, and then we continually were sort of blown away how sad the situation was as it went on and on.
“We were both just praying that these families, these people, were going to get out,” Parker said.
There were small victories. “Every time some of the hostages would escape, we were cheering, you know? High fiving, almost. It was awesome to see, but then the longer it went on, the lights went off and signs weren’t looking good, and the scene was getting sort of worse by the hour.”
As the hours ticked by, the gunman’s behavior became more erratic. Still, the entire focus of emergency services was obtaining a peaceful resolution.
But their patience ran out with the echo of a single gunshot.
“We heard a shot. They confirmed ‘hostage down, window 2.’ Six seconds later, we saw the special forces go breach. It was pretty loud, pretty frightening, like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Ever.
“The moment he crossed the line of taking down a hostage, it was a forced action from the police. They, in my mind and anyone else seeing it, didn’t think they were going sit around for another hostage to have the same fate.”
After all that Greg Parker saw during Sydney’s longest and darkest night, it’s the terror on the faces of those victims in the early hours of the siege that will stay with him for the rest of his life.
“The thing that keeps going through my mind the most is the look of just anguish on the faces of those people being forced to stand in that window,” he said, “but match with that the sheer courage of those police officers and the non-stop stories and the info I was getting from the sniper who was telling us how and why they do different things, and then to see the way they went in with no fear for their own safety to get people out, I’m never going forget that.”