In recent years, terrorist attacks have taken place in major cities across the world – most notably in New York City in 2001. And sadly for the residents of Melbourne, Australia, they faced one such incident on November 9, 2018. But as Hassan Khalif Shire Ali attacked people with a knife that day, an unexpected hero decided to step up.
On September 11, 2001, the world as many people knew it changed forever when terrorists crashed hijacked airplanes into sites in New York City, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC. Close to 3,000 people lost their lives on that day. And in the years since 9/11, various other cities around the globe have suffered major incidents with similarly tragic results.
On March 11, 2004, for instance, almost 200 people died in Madrid, Spain, after the bombing of four trains. Nearly 2,000 others were also injured in the attack. And just over 12 months later, terrorists hit another capital city in Europe.
On the morning of July 7, 2005, four suicide bombers launched attacks in London, England. This was just 24 hours after the city had won the right to host the 2012 Olympic Games. The first attack took place on the London Underground, with three trains being targeted. After that, the fourth bomber blew up a double-decker bus.
Over 50 people were killed in those attacks, while hundreds more were injured. And following 7/7, a number of other incidents occurred across Europe over the next few years. These attacks struck countries including Germany, Norway, France and Denmark. And 2015 proved a scary time for those living in the capital of France.
Indeed, over a two-day period in January 2015, several attacks wreaked havoc across Paris and killed close to 20 people. Sadly, though, worse was still to come. On November 13, 2015, you see, the city was hit with attacks that resulted in the deaths of over 100 people.
In the years following that tragic night in Paris, further incidents occurred in Belgium, Germany and Orlando, Florida, among other locations. France was also dealt another blow on Bastille Day in 2016 when more than 70 people in Nice lost their lives after a truck rammed into them.
And the citizens of England faced a similar situation in 2017. Two terrorist attacks were in fact carried out in London that year, while another shocking incident occurred in Manchester. This last attack was particularly horrifying, as a suicide bomber killed over 20 people, including many children, after an Ariana Grande concert.
Yet while the attacks in Europe got a lot of media attention, there were also attacks further south, particularly in Australia. On September 23, 2014, for instance, two counter-terrorism officers were stabbed in a Melbourne suburb. This incident also led to the death of the attacker.
Later that year, a gunman held 18 people hostage inside a Sydney cafe for around 16 hours. Police eventually entered the building and killed the man allegedly responsible. An additional two people also lost their lives. Sadly, though, the attacks didn’t end there.
In October 2015 a teenager allegedly murdered accountant Curtis Cheng in a Sydney suburb. After Cheng’s death, police arrested five people and described the attack as a “terrorism event.” And almost 12 months later, a similar incident occurred in another suburb in Sydney.
In September 2016 an individual who apparently took an interest in ISIS, a terrorist group based in the Middle East and Africa, allegedly stabbed a 22-year-old man. The attacker was later arrested and charged with attempted murder and committing an act of terrorism.
And much like the people of London, those living in Australia also had tough times in 2017. The country, after all, faced two more terror incidents. The first took place on April 7, with three people getting injured during a stabbing attack in Queanbeyan. Two teenagers allegedly carried out this deadly spree, which saw one other person killed.
The police then faced another incident two months later. In a Melbourne suburb, a man allegedly entered an apartment building and murdered a woman. He then seemingly took a second person hostage before confronting the authorities. At that point, the attacker shot three officers and was subsequently killed.
Before the man died, though, it’s believed he told police, “This is for ISIS. This is for Al Qaeda.” And as if these incidents weren’t enough, Australians then received another terrifying scare towards the end of the year.
On December 21, 2017, a vehicle drove through a crowd of people on Flinders Street, one of Melbourne’s most popular locations. Yet while the scene was similar to previous terror attacks in France, England and Germany, authorities ruled out terrorism as a cause. They determined instead that the driver of the car had mental health problems.
Australian police also reportedly thwarted two more major plots against its citizens. The first occurred in December 2016, just ahead of the holidays. On that occasion, the authorities stopped an alleged plan to bomb downtown Melbourne on Christmas Day.
And close to 12 months later, police arrested a man who apparently intended to “shoot as many people as he could” in Melbourne on New Year’s Eve. As a result of that, Ali Khalif Shire Ali will face a charge related to terrorism in Supreme Court.
After police arrested Ali in November 2017, Federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan offered some calming words to the local citizens. “These disruptions remind us of the depravity of the terrorists,” he told ABC News. “If this attack were to have gone ahead, it would have been absolutely catastrophic. But the point is it was stopped.”
“I’d like to reassure the people of Melbourne,” Keenan continued. “And all Australians that our security agencies continue to work around the clock, seven days a week, to keep them safe and continue to disrupt plots that seek to do them harm.”
Despite those reassurances, though, residents of Melbourne faced another incident in November 2018. A man named Hassan Khalif Shire Ali allegedly armed himself with a knife and started to attack people on Bourke Street. One person lost their life in the resulting fracas. However, someone did decide to step up and help.
At one point during the attack, you see, Shire Ali apparently set fire to a car full of gas cylinders. The vehicle quickly went up in flames. But this reportedly did nothing to deter homeless man Michael Rogers as he looked to intervene. Before he could help, though, it seems that he needed something with which to protect himself.
“I have seen the trolley to the side,” Rogers told Australia’s Channel Seven in November 2018. “So I’ve picked it up, and I ran and threw the trolley straight at [Shire Ali]. [I] got him but didn’t get him down. And I did that motion about – quite a number of times, but it just wasn’t getting him down.”
Despite all the danger around him, though, Rogers reportedly kept Shire Ali at bay with the grocery cart. Police also stood beside the brave homeless man. Shire Ali had allegedly already attacked some officers earlier, and police eventually shot the man. And as a result of his injuries, he later died in hospital.
All eyes were on Rogers following the attack, however, and he earned the nickname “Trolley Man.” It later transpired that just a few weeks prior to his heroics, he’d been released from prison after serving a sentence for theft. Despite his criminal history, though, the homeless man seemingly wants to get back on the straight and narrow.
“I want to be a good guy,” Rogers told the Daily Mail Australia in November 2018. “I’m going to try anything to do the right thing because I just [want to] get a place to settle in that I like and set it up the way I want it.” On that note, someone stepped up to help him upon discovering his story.
In fact, founder of the Melbourne Homeless Collective charity Donna Stolzenberg decided to set up a GoFundMe page for Rogers after the attack. “We’ve since learned that our hero Trolley Man [is] homeless and that his phone was destroyed in the incident,” she wrote on the funding website. “We believe his efforts deserve a reward that can really help him out.”
“We’re a registered charity, supporting people experiencing homelessness,” Stolzenberg continued. “And all funds donated to this campaign will go directly to Rogers to help get him back on his feet. He’s a hero in our eyes, and he can do what he feels best with any funds he receives.”
Not even Stolzenberg could’ve predicted what happened next, though, as the donations far surpassed the original $45,000 goal. So at that point, the charity tried to get in contact with Rogers to inform him about the GoFundMe page. And after a bit of searching, it finally located him.
“We’ve found [Rogers],” Stolzenberg wrote on the GoFundMe page. “What an absolutely incredible human. We had a long chat on the phone today, and we’re even more proud of him. Our hero is humble as can be and had no idea about this fundraiser. We’ll be catching up tomorrow to hand over his donations. He is amazing.”
And after meeting with Rogers the following day, Stolzenberg returned to the website with another update. “We met with [him] yesterday,” she wrote. “And can we tell you, he’s just the [loveliest] person. So humble and doesn’t believe the hero status we know he truly deserves.”
Stolzenberg then revealed that she had another surprise up her sleeve for Rogers. “We bought him a new phone to replace the one that was smashed in the incident,” she continued. “He is so [grateful for] the support he has received and is quite overwhelmed by it all.”
From there, the founder of the charity explained how Rogers would receive the money from GoFundMe. “As promised, 100 percent of the funds raised for Michael will go to him,” Stolzenberg wrote. “They will be held in a trust account with our accountants at One Ledger.”
Stolzenberg added, “[One Ledger has] very generously offered to oversee the handling of the funds. And make sure Michael is well taken care of and guided financially as he moves forward.” Later that month, however, the story took an unexpected twist.
After being hailed as a hero, you see, Rogers found out that the police were actually looking for him. So he turned himself in and faced some serious charges. These included two counts of theft, two of burglary and committing an indictable offense during his time on bail.
Rogers subsequently appeared before Melbourne Magistrates Court accused of breaking into a café and stealing around $500. This event allegedly occurred just 24 hours before his “Trolley Man” heroics. Following the hearing, the Magistrate decided to grant Rogers bail – with a few conditions.
One of those conditions was that Rogers needed to stay out of Melbourne’s city center. However, Rogers was confident that he wouldn’t violate the terms of his bail upon leaving court. “I’m glad I’ve been given another chance, and I’ll give it my best shot,” he told Australian newspaper The Age in November 2018.
“It’s nice to know that people do still think that I’m worthy of moving on in life and putting my old stuff behind,” Rogers continued. “I think [I can stay out of trouble] so long as I stay out of the city. I’m not gonna lie, it’s gonna be a task.”
Rogers added that he wouldn’t be swayed into making a mistake while on bail. “Look, my goal is to pay people back and do the right thing and that’s what I’m gonna do,” he added. “At the end of the day, I’m glad to be out and give it a good crack at moving on.”
After returning to court at the end of November, Rogers had his bail extended for another month. His most recent hearing then occurred in December 2018. As for the money raised on GoFundMe, the donations reached just under $145,000 before being closed.