Editor’s note: The following comes from what was commissioned as the first article of a travel series about the writer’s vacation in Europe. However, life and death work on their own time. And at the top of the horizon glares fear itself. On the other hand, however, to travel, to learn, to meet, speak, eat, drink, and make friends with people from all corners of this frigid and fragile cube of a world, is to save it from the fear that threatens to rip it into pieces. What weird things we should be, if we let ourselves be led into the madness of fear. Perspective and empathy drive the world forward, so carry on and stay strong.
During the late evening hours of Saturday, June 3, the United Kingdom experienced yet another terror attack, this time in London.
It began along the London Bridge when three men in a van drove directly into pedestrian traffic. When the van finally came to a stop, the men jumped out of the van and began attacking people with knives, near Borough Market. Eight people have died and numerous others were injured.
I was supposed to go to Borough Market, as well as the London Bridge the next day. My family and I have been on vacation in England for a week and we were on our way back from touring the northern part of the country when we heard the news reports.
As we made our way back to the city the following day, the reports coming in from American news websites cast a dreary picture of the town we approached. Words such as ‘reeling’ and ‘horrified’ were being used to describe the Londoners’ feelings about the terror attack from the previous night.
However, what I heard on the British news and what I saw on the streets of London were in direct contrast to the American suggestion that the people of London were apparently in shell shock from the horrifying incident. What happened was really quite terrible, but after what I saw the next day, the word I would use to describe them is resilient.
As I walked along the road leading up to the London Bridge, there was an impromptu memorial set up for the victims. The memorial was adorned with flowers and as I stood there paying my respects, more people came by to offer flowers and quiet condolences. Also available at the memorial were grief counselors, free to anyone who needed someone to talk to. I saw two police officers attempting to comfort a woman who had obviously lost someone dear to her.
A man in front of me walked up to the memorial, laid his bouquet down, and silently walked away.
What I didn’t see during the days after the attack was any evidence of hate toward another Londoner. There weren’t any signs, indicating various people unwelcome. No slurs of hate, no acts of retaliation, no signs of permanent change to the Londoners’ lives.
Instead of allowing this attack to push the people toward hate and fear, the citizens of London are rallying against what the attackers wanted. All along London, I found signs asking people to turn to love.
One bar patron actually returned to the pub after the attack, to pay their bill. Multiple shop keepers shouted for people to seek safety inside their shop. Instead of running from the attackers, several people ran toward them. These are not people who are afraid. These are people who are fighting for the good in London.
The people are not in anguish, as some media outlets would portray.
London is resilient.
The moments of the terror attack were horrifying but these people allowed those moments to be what they were and then they moved on. They have to. They know that for as long as they remain stagnant in fear and hate, the enemy wins.