So, if this were a game where you must draw a connection between these three places, my answer would be memories. That’s what I used to think of – vivid concerts provoking newly discovered human senses, tourist attractions bustling with awe, and home sweet home.
But in just less than a month, my answer has changed to tragedy.
Tragedies struck in each of these places in the UK; every media outlet was suddenly alert, and social media began receiving immense traffic. And, like any normal person, I felt vastly hollow and utterly powerless upon hearing the news. So many lives were taken – God bless the families who were affected – and, you know what?
It baffled me.
Yes, it did. Of course it made me outrageous, no doubt, but even more so, it really, really baffled me. How great of a satisfaction can one receive in the act of cold-blooded killing? How could one even receive fulfilment if the void was filled with empty, disgusting cowardice?
And, most importantly, why is innocence the target of death?
It screwed my mind up thinking about it, so instead of searching for answers, I searched for something a little more abstract.
I quickly realised, something beautiful emerged from each of these horrific events, something so incredible that you only witness in dire times: selflessness. The London Metropolitan Police were heroes the night of the London Bridge attack – they risked their own lives, and in that 8-minute response time, saved goodness knows how many other lives that night. And then there was London’s Major Trauma network in the same incident – the rapid response of the medics & the London Ambulance Service was extraordinary. Because, guess what – of the 48 victims admitted to the hospital in time for medical attention, every single one of them have survived their injuries. The NHS also worked tirelessly to help victims in the Manchester Attack, including NHS staff who happened to be attending a conference in Manchester, whilst the police continue to investigate into this horrific terrorist attack. Then there was the devastating Grenfell Tower fire in West London more recently; 12 people are currently confirmed dead. But once again, the London Fire Brigade arrived just 6 minutes after the fire was reported, and it took them a jaw-dropping 10 hours to douse the flames.
Ariana Grande organised an entire benefit concert for 50,000 fans at Old Trafford cricket ground, two miles away from the arena, raising almost £3m for victims of the Manchester Attack. To see all the worldwide-famous singers fly straight into Manchester to perform purely out of the goodness of their hearts was incredibly heart-warming, and so extremely humbling. And as Ariana walked out one last time, blowing kisses to the concertgoers, a hushed silence fell over the crowd as she closed with a beautiful, emotional rendition of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. There were tears in her eyes, and for a while, I didn’t realise there were tears in mine too. It was a concert by heroes, for heroes.
But the heroic fire of gold burned even brighter, if that’s possible, because who could ever forget the public? The public was such an integral role in all of the incidents. Bystanders kept victims alive with simple first-aid skills; in the face of horror, people did not panic, but rather, harboured a calmness that ensured everybody’s safety. Cafes threw open their doors and offered free refreshments for the heroic firefighters in the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Chris Parker, a homeless man who heard the bang in the Manchester Attack, ran towards the danger and helped people get out of the foyer – he is one of the many heroes who shined in Manchester’s darkest hour. These are only a few examples of the heroism that illuminates through the sludge of violence and tragedy; a beacon of hope, that screams, “We are still here!” because who could tear us down if we grasp each other’s hands tightly?
I am incredibly lucky to have not been directly affected by the events. Sure, I was at Borough market the day before the London Bridge incident, scarfing down a falafel wrap. Sure, I attended the Shawn Mendes concert at the O2 after initial fear hearing about what happened at Ariana Grande’s concert. But it doesn’t mean I was connected to the three tragedies – I just kept going on with life, and that’s that. It’s what you have to do. I’m simply lucky.
But I am not relieved; I am not at ease. I know I’m not native to this country and simply a student here, and I know I’m only knowledgeable on what I can read from personal accounts on social media and what I can watch on BBC News. But as a bystander in this time of instability, I can honestly say how thankful I am. Thankful for the NHS services, thankful for the Metropolitan Police, thankful for the brigade, thankful for everybody who extended a helping hand even if it meant risking their own lives. And this is why I am writing this post, not because I’m afraid, but because I am thankful. I hope one day I can do the same as the courageous people who put their life out on the line to help others.
I guess what I’m trying to say boils down to this: do not give into fear. Do not back down. Because if we do, we lose more of the freedom we seek to protect. A map may contain well-defined borders around every single country, but that isn’t representative of the universal kindness in people’s hearts – in fact, there are no borders. Because whatever nationality you are, wherever you were born in this world, we all want peace. And it’s our duty as a human to fight for justice.
To end, I have a quote from Yip Harburg, the lyrical writer of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, explaining the meaning behind the song:
“We worked for in our songs a sort of better world, a rainbow world. Now, my generation unfortunately never succeed in making that rainbow world, so we can’t hand it down to you. But we could hand down our songs, which still hang on to hope and laughter … in times of confusion.”
Quite right, isn’t he? Stay strong, my friends.
Oh, and as for that three-word game, I’d like to now change my answer: heroism.