When I sat down to write my usual post about a topical issue in the fashion or blogging worlds, it felt empty. It felt wrong to be writing about that at a time when peoples’ lives were being ripped apart. Before, for me it had all felt terribly distant: from Paris to St Petersburg, even Westminster. I vividly remember when the news broke of the Westminster attack, and the silent section of the library I was in rippled with a buzz, people playing BBC news videos out loud, people frantically making phone calls to family. Then, I remember feeling horrified, but at the same time somewhat distant. The two most recent attacks, though, struck me on a far more personal level. Never have I cried so much at the news as I did over the past week. Never have I felt so scared. Both the London Bridge attack and the Manchester attack were on my respective doorsteps. Hundreds of thousands of people, like me, woke up the morning after these attacks to messages asking if they were OK, if they had heard, if their family were OK. Like me, hundreds of thousands were glued to their phones all morning calling and texting their friends and family. The worst part is the unknown, the feeling that it could have been any one of us. It could have been me, at any of the countless concerts I went to at the M.E.N both as a child and a teenager. It could have been my own dad, watching Ed Sheeran at the M.E.N several weeks earlier.
The personal dynamic of the most recent attacks has raised a lot of issues for me about terrorism, and my own reaction to it. Is there a “right” way to react to terrorism? Some people I know have responded in fear of terrorism: by staying at home, refusing to go to things they had planned, avoiding certain areas at all costs (in London, London Bridge and Borough in particular). There have been those who have condemned the “love from Manchester” bomb drop in Syria as provoking the London Bridge attacks. There have been those who, when I planned to go to the One Love Manchester concert, told me, “Are you crazy? Going to that is so dangerous – that’s asking for trouble!” Those people prioritise their safety – but they also live in fear of terrorism, which is exactly what the terrorists want.
I understand the feelings of fear. Believe me, I do. As I sat on the tube the morning after the London Bridge attacks, I was stunned that the usual pretending-we-can’t-see-each-other-and-staring-at-our-phones etiquette had been replaced with furtive and suspicious glances, with eyes darting around the carriage, with blinked-away tears. Fear rippled throughout the capital that day and every day since. But at the same time, most people have reacted overwhelmingly with compassion. The night of the Manchester attack, several taxi drivers offered free rides to and from the Ariana Grande concert. Dominos delivered free pizzas to the ER. Thousands of people took to Facebook to offer food and shelter to those affected. Blood banks were overwhelmed with people queuing up to donate; doing anything they could to try and help.
Finally, some responded with acts of defiance. What was an Ariana Grande concert quadrupled in size and became a night of historical proportions, uniting acts from all over the world, from Justin Bieber to Katy Perry to Coldplay, who came together to directly condemn the attacks and prove that terrorism could not destroy live music. In 6 minutes, 50,000 people defied ISIS in buying tickets. And during the 3 hour concert, the British Red Cross raised over £2 million to benefit the victims and the families of those affected. The total raised since the Manchester attack now stands at over £10 million.
People’s fear of terrorism is understandable. But, imagine if, for days after a terrorist attack, people remained silent in their homes, public transport ceased, people refused to go to work. ISIS would think that they had won, and we cannot let them think that. For me, compassion and defiance are the most important factors in my reaction. What the aftermath of the attacks has proven is that the terrorists can bomb concerts; they can mow down pedestrians, they can stab innocent people – but they cannot break our spirit. One of my favourite tweets from the night of the One Love Manchester gig, posted just after IS claimed responsibility for the London Bridge attacks, was a video of Liam Gallagher (of legendary Mancunian boyband Oasis fame) singing with Coldplay, with the caption, “What was that IS? We can’t hear you, we’re all fucking singing!” Like those people singing, we mustn’t live in fear of terrorism. For me, this defiance proves above all else that, so long as human courage lives on, terrorism can never truly succeed.
Top: M&S Limited
Shoes: Topshop (on sale here)
Watch: Abbott Lyon
Pink bag: Mango (sold out)
White Bag: Zara
Photos are by the gorgeous Shelley xoxo