Helping to heal: Cathy Gordon, of Ballina, with her horse Whaler, which she says saved her soul after the terrifying ordeal of the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 had her considering suicide.
Helping to heal: Cathy Gordon, of Ballina, with her horse Whaler, which she says saved her soul after the terrifying ordeal of the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 had her considering suicide. Cathy Adams

Horse saved life after Port Arthur

FOURTEEN years on from the Port Arthur massacre and Ballina resident Cathy Gordon still sees ‘holograms of blood and the deceased’ in her everyday life.

Independent retirees at the Alstonville Plateau Bowls and Sports Club sat in awe yesterday as Ms Gordon relived one of Australia’s darkest days and the story of how she came to be a ‘human being again’.

On April 28, 1996, Martin Bryant embarked on a killing spree mainly at Tasmania’s Port Arthur killing 35 people and injuring 21 others in an attack of unprecedented magnitude.

Ms Gordon, 42, was previously the concert manager at the Tasmania Symphony Orchestra and was acting as a guide for seven musicians from the Australian Opera who were on a tour which led them to Port Arthur.

Choir director Ms Gordon relives the tragedy and the mental conditions that followed as if it happened yesterday.

“We were having lunch in the cafe and all of the sudden I had an overwhelming feeling in the pit of my stomach to get out of there so we all got up and left and then the shots rang,” she said.

“It was like everything was happening in slow motion and I remember thinking I’m in trouble here and wondering am I ever going to see my mother again.”

Ms Gordon and her group hid with 10 others in a nearby building until Ms Gordon went back outside to help but instead she came face-to-face with Martin Bryant.

“I went to help a mother and her child when a yellow Volvo drove up behind them and the guy got out and shot at me first, missed and then took the lives of the mother and the baby and then her other child instead of going after me.

“That is something I have had to live with for a long time. I was constantly asking myself why he didn’t go after me.

“I thought I was fine and I went back to work but then I had trouble reading and writing and remembering things. All of the sudden I couldn’t write my own name.

Suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, depression and prescription drug dependency, Ms Gordon grew exhausted and decided she had had enough.

On her way to Seven Mile Beach in Tasmania where she ‘planned to swim and swim till she couldn’t go any further’ she became sidetracked by a horse called Whale who ‘saved her soul.’

“I started to become a human being again and I evolved,” Ms Gordon said.

“Everyday I wake up is April 28. But if talking about what happened to me changes one person’s life I would go through it all again tomorrow.”



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