In an ambulance rushing to The Alfred Hospital, Rod and Maree Patterson said their final goodbyes.
After being stabbed in the head during a terrorist attack on Melbourne’s Bourke Street, Launceston businessman Mr Patterson knew he wasn’t in a good place.
Paramedics and his wife Maree urged him to stay with them.
“It was going to be our 37th wedding anniversary in four days time. I didn’t think we were going to have it,” Mr Patterson said.
“It wasn’t my day to die, thankfully.”
While spending a sunny day in Melbourne on November 9, Mrs Patterson went to the JB Hi-Fi store on Bourke Street to look at a laptop they were considering buying for their daughter’s birthday.
“I was sitting on the bench outside JB Hi-Fi talking to a guy from Dubbo who was asking me to do some work for him, and I heard an explosion,” Mr Patterson said.
“I turned around, and there was a ute on fire.
“I hung my phone up and raced over.”
Mr Patterson said instincts from his days as a firefighter kicked in, and he was the first one on the scene.
He thought it could have been a car accident.
“I didn’t know what it was, so I just rushed over there. A bit of the old stuff came through,” he said.
“I just thought, ‘someone is in trouble, I’ll go to help’.
“The door to the cabin was open so I’m looking for someone inside that I could pull out, and there was no one inside.
“I thought they might have been blown out with the explosion.
“I took a couple of steps back, and out of the corner of my left eye I could see the person coming at me with a knife.
“I wasn’t looking for someone to come from behind and stab me.”
Mr Patterson said he remembered every second of the attack.
“I felt the wound to my head. I must have fallen to the ground, and then gotten back up,” he said.
“Then I put my hand on my head, and realised it wasn’t a cut – it was a gash.
“I knew I was bleeding, but it was more than a bleed. It had cut an artery.
“Blood was pulsing out, and I knew I was in trouble.”
He said he was fortunate the attacker, Hassan Khalif Shire Ali, did not attack him a second time.
“I’m still on the road, and that’s when he stabbed Sisto [Malaspina] in the neck,” he said.
“Sisto, I think, was coming out toward the car as well.”
Mr Patterson watched as the attacker “caused mayhem” on the streets before attacking a security guard.
Mr Malaspina died on the scene.
“Sisto was the unlucky one out of the whole thing. Poor bloke,” he said.
Mr Patterson was in the middle of the road for a long time, with a hand on his head trying to stop the bleeding.
“I’m singing out for help, and no one came,” he said.
“The perpetrator was still engaging with the police, and running around. There was no real system to what he was doing.
“It was really unpredictable what he was going to do next. I was sitting on the road still really involved in the whole scene.
“Then all of a sudden someone took my hand and took me off the road and to the footpath, and then he gave me his jumper and told me to put it on my wound.
“I don’t know who that person is, but I’m trying to find him.
“I’ve got detectives from Melbourne trying to help me because I want to buy him a jumper.
“I don’t know whether he saved my life, but from being alone to having someone help was a very good feeling.”
He said at that stage, Victoria Police did not realise he was a victim and tried to get him to go into lock down behind a building.
“I told them, ‘I’m bleeding, I need help’,” he said.
“Then an ambulance came and they went to Sisto, and then another ambulance came and came to me.”
As the attack began, Mrs Patterson was about to leave JB Hi-Fi after about two minutes of being in the store.
“I was starting to head out, still level with the laptop table, and these two guys came racing through and JB staff were running after them,” she said.
“I thought they were shoplifters.
“Then they just stopped a couple of metres away from me and started singing out that a car had blown up outside and that a guy was running around stabbing people.
“I just went, ‘oh, Rodney’s out there’.”
The store went into lockdown as she tried to push her way through to the exit.
Mrs Patterson tried calling her husband, but he wasn’t picking up his phone.
“Immediately I thought, ‘oh dear, I don’t think this is going to be good’.
She tried to exit the store, but staff refused to let anyone out of the building.
“They said, ‘no one is going out’,” she said.
“I’ve gone, ‘I left my husband out there. I need to get out there’.
“I got to the doors, and the doors were locked.
“Again, I’ve gone, ‘you need to let me out, my husband is out there somewhere’.
She said she’s unsure how she got out of the building, but as soon as she stepped outside she saw the second blast from the car.
“The heat from it was amazing. I stood there and thought, ‘this is like a movie scene’,” she said.
“I couldn’t see Rodney, he certainly wasn’t where I left him. There wasn’t anybody where I left him.
“I just started singing out for him. I looked left, and saw a guy was with him. He had a fleecy jumper up on top of his head.
“I raced over and said, ‘what happened’.
“He said, ‘he stabbed me. I was just trying to help, and he stabbed me’.
Mrs Patterson said there was blood going everywhere.
“Rodney said, ‘I think I’m in trouble. I need help’.”
Mr Patterson was taken to The Alfred Hospital.
“Through a bad incident we met just some beautiful people,” he said.
Mr Patterson had high praise for all the staff at the hospital that helped him during his stay, and for all the support he had received from all over Australia.
“The amount of love and support we’ve gotten from people who know us, people who think they know us, people who don’t know us. It’s just been fantastic,” he said.
“What Maree has been through has just been overwhelming, thinking that she’s going to lose her husband, then dealing with all the paperwork and all the love and affection in the media.”
Mrs Patterson said their children had also received many messages of support.
Before the attack, the Pattersons had planned to make the most of the day while staying in their Melbourne apartment.
“It’s a place where I can go and not be as recognised as I am in Launceston, so it’s a bit of a haven. It’s just a totally different life for us over there,” Mr Patterson said.
“We had a beautiful day planned.
“I’d Googled where the nearest happy hour for Boags Draught was.
“There’s a little jazz bar in Singers Lane we love to go to, so Maree Googled who was on that night. We thought we’d go and have dinner and a show there.
“There’s a pub called the Woolshed, just down from our apartment, and they have the best music on a Friday night.
“So we were going to go down to our Woolshed family and have a drink and a dance as sometimes we do.
“That was going to be our Friday.”
Despite the horror of the attack, the two plan to return to Melbourne soon.
“I want Victorians to know that Melbourne has done nothing to us. Bourke Street has done nothing to us,” he said.
“Someone with hate in his heart has done something to us.
“We’re going back to Melbourne in three weeks time, and we’re going to finish our Friday.
“We’re going to go and find that Boags Draught during happy hour, we’re going to go to that jazz bar, and we’re going to go out and have a dance at the Woolshed.
“It’s going to be tough, but we’ve had such great support. It’s all this love that’s giving us our strength, because we’ve got a bit of a journey to go yet.
“It’s OK to be angry about this, it’s OK to be sad. But it’s not OK to hate, because hate is what started all this crap.
“Let’s learn from all of this, and try and put things in place where we reduce the risk of it happening.
“But let’s not hate.”