This morning I have, again, woken to the terrible news that there has been yet another terrorist attack in the UK – the second in two weeks and the second in London in under three months.
My heart is breaking as I sit and watch the continuous news coverage. Footage of terrified people running out of bars and restaurants, hands raised as police try to tell the good guys from the attackers. People who were simply enjoying an evening out with friends, until a van careered down London Bridge, running over pedestrians indiscriminately. People who were enjoying a drink or a meal, but then found themselves staring into the eyes of madness as men jumped from the van and began stabbing at them with knives.
As I write this, the morning after the night before, six innocent people have lost their lives at the hands of these terrorists, three of whom were shot dead by armed police, who responded swiftly to the calls for help. Six people, who went into town for a night out and who will never come home. Dozens more are injured.
As I watch the news, I hear my son coming downstairs and I quickly change the channel on the TV. I don’t want him to see this. Not again. Not yet. I realise I cannot shield him from this; he is nine and he’s switched on. He will know something has happened – again – and will want to ask questions, know details. And I will talk to him and explain to him in the best way I know how, giving him the facts, but trying not to worry him too much.
Only, I will feel like a fraud. After the first attack in London this year, we were advised to talk to our children sensitively, yet honestly. To tell them that whilst this is an awful thing to have happened, it’s such a rare occurrence that we need to keep some perspective. To reassure them that the chances of it happening again – happening to them – are extremely rare. Unlikely, even.
But it did happen again, two months later, when a suicide bomber blew himself up as people were leaving a concert in Manchester. That night, twenty-two people died, and scores were injured. Not just ‘people’, but young people, children, who had spent the evening singing and dancing along with their idol. For some, probably their first ever concert, that they had been looking forward to for months. Parents waited outside anxiously for their children to emerge, already worried about letting them attend without them. Then, their anxiety ramped up to another level as an explosion rang out through the arena and it became clear that something was very, very wrong.
Twenty-two of those parents, young people, children will never return home from that concert. I wonder if Saffie-Rose Roussos, just eight years old, had talked to her about the terrorist attack in Westminster? Reassured her that it would never happen to her?
And now, yet again, we are watching footage of destruction and terror, of loss of innocent, human life. And I cannot lie to my child yet again and tell him that it’s OK, it’s rare, it won’t happen here. Why should he believe me this time? The truth is, none of us knows. We can no longer say, with almost full certainty, that we are safe.
We live in a very large city. A city that has already been linked to terrorist and extremist activity. How long before our city is targeted? How long before the places I frequent with my children are next on the terrorists’ hit list?
How do I talk to my child now? I will not lie, but the truth has become too much to bear. I am afraid. They are winning.