Staring into the Face of Terror

I initially had a different post planned for today. But another topic seemed much more pressing.

The horror of last night’s incident in London is still sinking in for me. The terror of the Manchester bombing, in my very own city, in a place so familiar to me and full of so many happy memories, is still raw. The tears are still fresh, the fear is still there, and yet tragic events like this are becoming all too familiar.

We know the pure elation of seeing our favourite bands and artists in concert, surrounded by hundreds or even thousands of people who love them as much as we do. We know the thrill of the lights going down just before they come on stage for the first time, when everyone starts screaming and your heart starts racing with excitement. We know the unadulterated joy of singing our favourite songs back to the people we love, our voices mingled in with the rest of the crowd in a moment of complete bliss. We know the buzz of that post-concert euphoria: on top of the world, ears ringing, voice rasping, feet aching.

Similarly, we know the awe of walking around the big city, our jaws dropping at the skyscrapers and the old stone buildings, the hustle and bustle of business people and tourists alike drawing us in, hundreds of cultures surrounding us in food, dress, art, and history. We know the excitement of all the sights, whether we’ve seen them once or a hundred times, and that feeling that you just can’t quite put your finger on when you take in all of the city’s beauty.

We know what that feels like. And we can’t let the actions of a few select people, full of hatred and bitterness, take that away from us. We can’t let them stop us from living our lives, going to the places we want to go, and making memories with the people we love, because that’s how they win.

They can try time and time again, but we will always just dust ourselves off and carry on. It’s what we do here. Yes, we’re scared, but we won’t show it. We’ll just go about as normal, because it’s all we can do, and that’s how we demonstrate our strength. We’ll continue to show nothing but love despite their hate, we’ll pull each other through and open our arms to one another in the face of adversity. I know that it is easier said than done. Masking our fear and anxiety isn’t a simple task, but it’s all too easy to let our minds go into overdrive about what’s going to happen next, where the next target will be, and how close to home it’s going to hit. It’s a piece of cake to cancel our plans “just in case”, and stay home wrapped in bubble wrap and tissue paper, delicate and protected. But once we do that, they’ve got us under their thumb, and they’ve got us under their control. We can’t put our lives on hold just because something might happen. We are not delicate – we are hardy, persistent, and unshakable. We do not crumble.

The way Manchester responded as a community to the attack at the arena is far more important than the attack itself. The resilience, love, and support that was shown by Mancunians that night, and in the days since, has been overwhelming. On the night of the attack, I saw so many people offering up their homes to those who were stranded, had lost family members, or just needed a phone charger or a hot cup of tea. People were rushing complete strangers to hospital, comforting each other, and helping each other through pain and loss. Taxi companies were giving free rides to those who couldn’t make it home on public transport. The emergency services were incredible, and are still working so hard to keep our city safe and help the injured recover. Cafes and restaurants across the city have been offering up free food and drinks. There have been vigils, flowers, and balloons everywhere in memory of those we have lost. People from all over the city have been singing Don’t Look Back in Anger in their thousands, united by the music that has made this city so great. It has been one act of hate against millions of acts of love, and these are the things that we have to remember. I have never been prouder to call this city my home, to show the world what we’re made of, and to smother hate with love. And this is how London will respond after last night, just as it has done in the past. This is how we handle things in the UK. We get back up in the morning, complain about the weather, ask who wants a cuppa, and carry on like normal. Hate won’t win. Terror won’t win.

Some people will try to use these events as a force for hate. They will use the horror of these attacks as a way to promote and justify their xenophobic agenda, and they will bring suffering to the people who make up our communities purely based on their race or religion – making them feel unsafe, unwelcome, and guilty for crimes they did not commit. We can’t let that happen. We have to stand up for those who are made to feel so vulnerable and wrongly responsible for actions that are not, and will never be, their own. Terrorism has no race or religion.

We must continue to spread love and support each other, and not give in to malevolence. There is more that makes us the same than makes us different. What is important right now is that we all come together and take care of one another. The more that they try to make us hate, the more we must love.

Look after one another. We can’t afford not to.

 

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