Reflecting on Terror

We arrived in London on Monday. We flew into Gatwick and took trains to London Bridge station. From the underground station, we walked to Southwark and checked into Citizen M hotel, directly across from Borough Market. We spent three nights there, walking the streets, eating in the pubs, having picnic breakfasts beneath the trees. On Friday, we took a train to Edinburgh, Scotland. There, we learned about the attack via late-night text messages from friends and family asking if we were safe. 

We're taking a train back to London now. The train is quiet--our compartment nearly empty. As I watch sheep and countryside roll by, I can hear my thoughts: Why Southwark? It's lovely. The people were so kind. We were just there. It could have been us. I'm nervous to go back to London--maybe we should skip it and head south. What if something else happens? 

I don't ask myself "why Kabul?" I don't think about the architecture in Egypt's Minya Governorate. The kindness of strangers in Tangi never occurs to me. Do I really need to have just been in a place to feel, in a real and present way, sickness and sadness? Do I really need to assess the familiarity of a culture to care about what happens to it? Do I need to apply my own lens of worthiness to people to grieve their murders? That is not the heart I want to have. 

It could always be us. That's the nature of terror. There are people nervous to go back to work today, to walk outside their homes. They don't get to opt out. Something else can always happen, and perhaps our best expression of solidarity is carrying on. 

I am not an expert in safety, a politician, a pundit, or a policymaker. I wish I had ideas to deter those seeking infamy and justly punish those who aid in their plans, to thwart radicalization and end extremism. I don't. The only heart that I can improve is mine. In the wake of this latest attack, improving my heart means sitting in the most vulnerable answers to the questions I'm asking. It means saying yes, we could have been there. Yes, something else could happen. Yes, I have grieved attacks on the western world and become numb to violence elsewhere, and no, that's not who I want to be. It means believing that we can probably do more to ensure our safety while knowing that there has always been and will always be evil in the world. It means carrying on, and carrying on with a little more kindness than yesterday because it's all I know to do.