An edited version of this article originally appeared in The New Daily on March 23, 2017, here.
I live 300 meters from Westminster Bridge in London where the latest crazy, evil murderer took innocent lives, presumably following a distorted ideology. It is a tragedy for the families and highlights the importance of a good police and security force like London’s.
But luck should not be cited for those who just missed the tragedy and nor should the terrorists be allowed to succeed by us succumbing to fear.
The sirens blared, the people rushed. The emergency services did an exceptional job as their heroism and training dictates. As I write five people are known to have died, including the murderer himself, and around 40 injured.
Social media sparked up and Facebook asked people to mark themselves as ‘safe’ – which I did. Many people responded saying ‘glad you are ok, ‘hope all is well’ and all those kind notes that remind one that friends exist.
The most common response I received was ‘you are lucky you weren’t there’.
I sat in my apartment 300 meters away as the scene unfolded, knowing that I was about to walk across that very bridge myself. Was I ‘lucky’ not to have been there 60 seconds earlier?
I am not ‘lucky’ I wasn’t there. Yes I live 300 meters from where people tragically died and yes, I cross that bridge on foot at least twice a day. Yes I was just about to leave my apartment and cross that very bridge and missed being there by a handful of seconds.
But, and I hate to get finicky, I cross the bridge using the eastern footpath which is the shortest route from my apartment to Westminster tube station. For every 100 times I cross that bridge 99 of them I would be on the eastern side. The murderer killed people on the western footpath.
Even if I had left my apartment earlier, even if I had have been on the bridge as I often am, even then I would not have been on the fatal side. Should I let the terrorists win by now being fearful?
I can not let these murders scare me because even though I live right there, which so few people do, even though I use that bridge every day, and even though I was about to set foot across that very bridge and the chance on any given day that I would be on the bridge at that exact 60 seconds, is around one in 1,440 – the number of minutes in a day.
Given that 99 out of a hundred times I cross that bridge the odds escalate to one in 144,000.
How can I possibly succumb to fear and let the terrorists win, when the odds of me being caught, even with such proximity, are so small? How can we let terrorists achieve their objectives by being terrorised, even if the odds of them ‘getting us’ is so small?
I recognise that none of this helps the families of the dead or those who still lie in hospital from their injuries. Little of this will console the people who will be traumatised by what they have seen.
But as a community we need to be strong when we are confronted with such evil. We need to reject the evil and reject both fear and hatred.
One thing did frighten me the day of the incident. I still had to go to my meeting I was about to join. I took a longer route to get to where I was going. Most people in London continued as normal ,even with the helicopters overhead and the sirens screaming their warnings. Most people showed that terrorism will not win.
But some succumbed. As I walked down Regency Street (ed note not Regent Street) toward my meeting, a large thug with a Union Jack bandana cowerdly covering his face hurled abuse at any ‘Muslim looking’ people.
And this did scare me. This is what the terrorists want. The terrorists want thugs like that to divide our society.
But we must not allow this fear the terrorists want us to feel grow into division. We must unite in our grief for the victims and unite to defeat the terrorists by doing as the Prime Minister here in the UK has suggested. We must continue as normal, must not succumb to fear and must not allow the thugs to do the work of the terrorists.
Andrew MacLeod is a former UN official having worked in many conflict zones. He is a former CEO of the Committee for Melbourne and is a visiting professor at Kings College London. He can be followed on @AndrewMMacleod