Mother’s last text to terror victim
JULIE Wallace received the phone call every parent fears four days after the London Bridge terrorist attack last year.
Her daughter, Sara Zelenak, had missed her daily call home to Brisbane after three men drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge and then stabbed patrons at a Borough Street Market pub on June 3.
Eight people were killed and another 48 were injured.
But Ms Wallace and her husband Mark refused to believe 21-year-old Sara had been caught up in the attack.
"Sarz was very streetwise, athletic and sensible. I thought it just couldn't happen to her because she was, you know, a good kid," Ms Wallace told AAP.
"I hoped if she was involved, she was unconscious and they just didn't know who she was." That hope was extinguished after the phone call that confirmed DNA testing had identified Sara as a victim of the attack.
"I went into shock, I couldn't breathe, I buckled over … It was an unbelievable shock, you know, I'd always had hope," she said.
Sara had been stabbed to death on a rare night out with friends in London, where she was working as a nanny.
In the months that followed, despite strong community support, Ms Wallace's world unravelled.
"Once it all calmed down, it starts to sink in. I stayed incredibly busy and you look like you're functioning on the outside but inside there is just this massive hole in your heart, you're just broken, absolutely broken-hearted."
"We're not sure we will ever come to terms with losing Sara but we're determined to give purpose to her loss."
Mr and Mrs Wallace, who appeared on Australian Story on Monday, said the feeling of panic when they couldn't reach Sara was similar to losing a son or daughter in a shopping centre.
"How did you feel? Well, it was like that for four days," she said.
"It's a big city, there's millions of people there. It was never once a thought that we ever had. We thought she'd be safe," Mark Wallace, Sara's stepfather said.
Sara's grandmother Heather, according to the report, would text message frequently while she travelled abroad.
"Sara was special. She was my first little granddaughter. I was there when she was born," Heather said.
Heather said that Sara had only been in London for two weeks when the first London terror attack happened on Westminster Bridge, after a vehicle ploughed into pedestrians.
The next attack, in May, happened at the Ariana Grande concert.
Heather said when the third attack happened - at London Bridge and nearby Borough Markets - she sent a warning message to her granddaughter.
"Hope you are okay after attack in London. Maybe stay away from crowds. Never know where these attacks will be next. Keep safe. Love you."
But this time, Sara didn't respond.
"She was in the wrong place at the wrong time," Julie said, recalling how her daughter wasn't answering her phone and she had a feeling something was wrong.
"I thought, 'that's odd', because Sara would never just go home with someone else or anything strange like that. She never didn't come home. Never," Julie said.
"As parents, you can't think the worst. We still had hope," Mark said.
Three days following the attack, both Julie and Mark travelled to London still not knowing if Sara was alive.
When they landed, their worst fears were confirmed. Sara had been killed in the terror attack.
"I said 'Sara's dead?', I couldn't breathe, I couldn't do anything. I couldn't take the seatbelt off. I just went into shock," Julie said.
"As soon as Jules stood up and started crying then she didn't have to say anything. I knew. We were both just bawling our eyes out. We couldn't believe it," Mark said.
Mr and Ms Wallace have launched a not-for-profit charity Sarz Sanctuary, in Sara's memory.
"I have to make something positive out of this horrific event otherwise it doesn't mean anything and doesn't make sense to me that someone who did nothing wrong could die in this way," Ms Wallace said.
The charity will fund Australia's first free holistic grief healing centre for people suffering from traumatic grief.
Grief touches each person differently and doesn't just affect the families of victims, but first responders too, she said.
"Statistics show around 25 per cent of people just can't move on after a horrific event," she said.
"Marriages break down, people become alcoholics, many can't function, they just can't get going again."
The couple hopes Sarz Sanctuary will become a healing centre offering counsellors, physiotherapists, kinesiology, reiki therapists, meditation, yoga instructors and dietitians.
"We want to teach people skills how to cope in society again. We can teach them tools," Ms Wallace said.
The first centre is planned for Queensland's Sunshine Coast with hopes of opening sanctuaries in London and Paris.
- with AAP