When a bomb explodes

I’ve been to Kabul, Afghanistan, four times in my life. The first three times a suicide bomber blew up something and took innocent lives somewhere in the city. The first time, in 2010, it happened on a road I had been on just two days earlier. But in none of those cases was the bombing anywhere near where I was. The last time I was there, last spring, there was no bombing. It had taken place the week before, killing 60 people. 

Those bombings were not really close to where I was. I mean, they were in the same city, but not near where I was staying or working. I didn’t brush them off, but I realized them for what they were — targeted at a specific sector of the population,not random. I have developed an attitude toward bombings. I know I have never been involved directly in a bombing or lost anyone to one. And I realize people who have may have an entirely different attitude. 

I have a group of eight college students here in London with me. We fly home Saturday. The bombing in Manchester caught our attention, the attention of the university administration, and of course the parents of my students. Manchester is at least two hours from London by train, not really in our neighborhood. But somehow it seems close. So far 22 people have died. This was also targeted — at young people attending a concert in a large auditorium. It was staged for maximum injury and maximum attention. It accomplished both. 

So this morning I sat down with my students. Troupers that they are, none of them appeared to be nervous about the bombing. I gave them a chance to talk it out. I urged them to call their parents if they felt a need to — I’m sure just about everyone did. One of them said her parents were putting some pressure on her to come home, but she didn’t want to, and I offered to drop an e-mail to any of their parents they wanted me to. No one took me up on the offer.

I told them that 22 people had died. But that same day seven billion people did not die. The world sometimes seems like a dangerous place, but the truth is most of us are quite safe. And I said the same thing I say to everyone who asks about all these things: If we flee home in fear without finishing what we came here for, the terrorists win. We can’t let them win. Take precautions? Be vigilant? Absolutely. But as the British are quoted as saying, Keep Calm can Carry On.

With that said, we all stood up, walked out of the hotel to our appointment, and carried on.


Posted on May 24, 2017, in Oman. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. The problem is that terrorist attacks do precisely the thing they were intended to do. They beget terror. That terror is a sensible yet rational reaction, a paradox.

    It is well to understand that there are selfish arseholes who wish to disrupt other people’s lives, and to hurt them or kill them. It is also well to understand the actual probability of being disrupted by the selfish little swine. It is also very useful to be alert to those acting oddly and to avoid them.

    You and you students are in England, mainly in London. You have unfamiliar dangers just by crossing the road. Our traffic drives on the side of the road unfamiliar to you all, even to those who have been here before. At home you had a probability of being run down when crossing the street. Here, because of the unfamiliarity with the traffic flow, that probability is enhanced. This probably appears in your risk analysis for the trip, too.

    Even at home you have more chance of being mown down crossing the street than you do of being even present at a terrorist incident here, let alone being hurt in any way.

    But emotion trumps logic any day. [I now find it difficult to use that word!].

    Had your trip been at the height of the IRA bombing campaigns you would still have come. You would have seen the British attitude to terrorists and terrorism at first hand.

    We are very sorry, even upset for the victims, especially the injured who have to carry on with injuries. We feel for those who love and loved them. We are not, generally emotionally involved except in what I might call respectful passing.

    We hate and despise the perpetrator. Micturating upon the remains of Manchester’s spiteful little loser is too good for him, but I wish to be first in the queue.

    We then go to the pub and have a pint or two and get on with our lives. Such things are not quite beneath our notice, because we notice them, but they are beneath glamourising by reacting to them in any way at all.

    In the same way that we did not despise the Irish, just the IRA, we do not despise Muslims, just the terrorists. We know that the 72 virgins they expect to receive will be the wrong sex and very old.

    Your students have just become honorary Britons because of their measured and sensible reaction to the Manchester incident. Their parents are many miles away. They need to rely on their offspring to have a sensible and measured reaction and to trust their judgement, in the same way that they trust them today to cross the street. Worrying is a parent’s prerogative. Being guided by their increasingly independent kids is a vert necessary part of parenthood.

    Perhaps you would show your students and through them their parents a British reaction to all terror events.

    We’ve had them before, you see. And we had Hitler’s Blitz.

    Keep calm, and carry on.

  2. What you might do is also to use the Manchester incident as a learning exercise.

    How has the media handled this?

    Has the incident been covered in a measured manner or has terrorism somehow been glorified?

    By naming the vile little shit who did it, has he been glorified?

    Why is his name in the press at all?

    Is the chasing of a story the only duty of the media?

    This incident is huge in its learning opportunities for your students. I am sure you are already deep into some of those questions with them.

  3. I do wish I could edit things I wrote in the comments. When I said up there:

    “That terror is a sensible yet rational reaction, a paradox.”

    there was no paradox.

    What I intended to say was:

    “That terror is a sensible yet irrational reaction, a paradox.”

  1. Pingback: Guest Blog Post: When a bomb explodes | Living in a Media World

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