“There’s been a stabbing at Parli and something’s happened on the bridge. They think it’s a terrorist attack. I’m fine but Dan says he can see bodies on the road from the office window…” my boyfriend tells me through a muffled trans-atlantic connection.
No matter who you are, I pray you never have to hear a loved one say the words “office” “terrorist attack” and “fine” in a sentence.
Two weeks ago, London experienced its worst terrorist attack since the 2005 tube bombing shook the city, both underground and aboveground.
While America’s evening news was only partly peppered with the tragedy (no one outside my close roommate circle even asked me about it), watching home burn from 5000 miles away hit me in the gut in a way I’ve never experienced.
You see, I interned at Britain’s Parliament in the House of Commons this past summer. The transition of ‘home,’ went from the social space I grew up in to a workplace for the first time.
To me, the location of the attack wasn’t just a government building shot from CNN’s helicopters. It was also where I made close friends, met my boyfriend and truly felt at home in a political space for the first time.
The pathway of New Palace Yard that I had walked over daily for eight weeks, never forgetting to gleam, eyes wide, at the beautiful details that seep from every crack in the Palace of Westminster suddenly became the site of horror when PC Keith Palmer was stabbed to death by a terrorist.
It’s a cliche, I know, to remind you that “you never think it will happen to you.” But the reality is that we live in a world where my boyfriend has to remind me that Parliament has actually had four real terrorist threats in the past year (mind you, we’re only in the beginning of April) and that “they saw it coming” and “it was only a matter of time.”
Only a matter of time before home is savagely marred with aggression and hate?
I’ve thought about this often in the past two weeks, about the people in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, France, Germany, Sierra Leone and many more whose homes suddenly morph from places of comfort to that of intense, crippling fear, sometimes daily.
I am so far from being able to advocate for some kind of solution that goes beyond education and awareness. Even so, what I think I can do is reflect on the meaning of home and identity.
My home has never been taken from me the way others in the world have experienced, and for that I am eternally grateful. But I do now know what it feels like to watch your home become a locus for terrible acts against humanity and the judgement and ignorance that can follow suit.
All I can hope for is that people will look beyond hate and ignore irrational fear. If you plan to travel outside the country any time soon, I hope you don’t let fear stop you from being unreservedly exploratory. If you want to go to London or Paris or Brussels or Berlin and you have the opportunity, GO.
Immerse yourself in other people’s homes so that you can better appreciate yours. And never, ever, let the fear of hate stop you from going where you want to go.
What happened in London is a tragedy, but London is resilient. I urge you to find out why.
Rachel Epstein ‘18 is a political science and creative writing double major from London, England.