Seattle, WA – The suicide bombing in Manchester late Monday evening was a tragedy. With a reported 22 dead and 64 injured, it’s certainly one of the worst acts of terrorism to hit the UK in my lifetime. The nature of the attack, targeting a concert at which a huge number of teens would be attending, is something I can’t get my head around. While I could get into my thoughts and beliefs regarding the motivations of such terrorists, the circumstances which force people to move to such acts of violence or the stream of racial and bigoted posts which have painted themselves onto my Facebook wall since Monday, I won’t. Instead, I want to look at something else.
When we hear the word “hero”, it conjures different ideas in our minds. Whether it’s the knight in shining armour, the freedom fighter battling back against oppressors or even our caped crusaders fighting crime with superhuman powers. We do not see homeless men, nursing assistants or taxi drivers. We see these people as people on our level and do we consider ourselves “heroes”? I certainly don’t.
When the bombs went off, Chris Parker and Stephen Jones didn’t think, “This will be good for us,” when they ran in to assist the wounded. Parker had been there as it was a good spot to beg and Jones had been sleeping nearby. When the moment came, however, both men rose to the occasion and their actions undoubtedly saved lives.
Paula Robinson wasn’t even at the concert, she was celebrating her 13th wedding anniversary with her husband, about to order drinks at a bar close to the arena when she heard the blast. When that moment came, she reacted, gathering children at a nearby hotel so they would not get caught up in the confusion and could contact their parents in safety.
What about Phil and Kim Dick, or Elena Semino and her husband? Both couples were there to collect family members when the blast happened and cared for the injured, while still searching for their loved ones.
What about the hundreds of taxi drivers that descended on the scene, getting people to safety, taking them wherever they needed, free of charge. What about the people and hotels who opened their doors, who gave those in need safe haven for the night. What about the delivery drivers who brought food to the attending doctors and nurses in Greater Manchester hospitals.
We will mourn the dead. The agony of the families torn apart by this act of terror is something I simply cannot comprehend. The pain of those still suffering in hospital care is something I cannot feel. What I can feel is a surge of respect and admiration for those who were willing to risk their lives, not knowing if it was a single attack or just the beginning, to help tend to the injured, shelter those in need and assist those who required it.
Those of you who know me know that I identify as Scottish, not British. For years, the notion of “Britishness” has been an idea I simply can’t relate to. In recent times, the United Kingdom has, for me, been a source of despair and sorrow. The political outlook is bleak, our leadership is weak and xenophobic and bigoted ideologies are slowly burrowing deeper into our societies.
The people of Manchester, however, have reminded me of the potential greatness of this country. They showed themselves that when the time came, race, creed and colour were irrelevant. All that mattered was the safety of those in need.
Monday night was a tragedy. We must remember those who were lost. We must remember those who were injured. But we must also remember the ordinary people who proved themselves heroes when the time came.