By Kristine Taylor
Peter and Pauline Grenfell were on a short holiday in Tasmania when they made a last-minute decision to spend a few hours at the Port Arthur Historic Site before heading home to Melbourne that night.
But at around 1:30pm, local man Martin Bryant entered the busy Broad Arrow Cafe at the historic site armed with a high-powered weapon and opened fire, killing 12 people and injuring 17 in just the first 15 seconds.
The Grenfells were standing at the toilet block nearby when they heard “this loud banging noise” coming from the cafe.
Initially they thought it was a gas explosion, until people began running and yelling “he’s got a gun and he’s shooting”.
They then saw the gunman emerge from the cafe and fire in their direction.
“We were just so panicked. We started to move away from the cafe,” Ms Grenfell said.
“Everybody was heading towards an oval. We didn’t feel safe going to the oval; we thought we’re just going to be sitting ducks there so we decided to head up Jetty Road.”
Also on Jetty Road, the main road out of the site, was Nanette Mikac, carrying three-year-old Madeline and walking with six-year-old Alannah, her daughters.
The Grenfells joined them as shots continued to ring out from the site.
“They were trying to get out, same as us,” Ms Grenfell said.
“The older of the two children was very fearful and her mum said to her: ‘We’re safe now, pumpkin’. And she seemed to feel better then.”
‘The bullet hits you before you hear the sound’
Justin Noble was a New South Wales police officer on a “second honeymoon” at Port Arthur.
He recognised the gun Bryant was carrying as he walked out of the cafe and into the car park, an AR-15, military-style weapon.
“I’ve witnessed what they can do on firing ranges. They fire a bullet at supersonic,” he said.
“In other words, the bullet hits you before you hear the sound. I said to my wife: ‘We’re in deep shit’.”
With more than 500 people at the site that day, there were scenes of terror, disbelief and confusion.
Mr Noble said people were in shock.
“They sort of froze, they didn’t understand what was going on,” he said.
“I was going around pushing people off the site, telling them that they had to get out, off the site, to take cover.”
‘A mother and her two children saved us’
Ms Grenfell said on Jetty Road, she was terrified for the two Mikac children and desperate to get them to safety.