An expat’s reflection on the Manchester attack: fear, home, and humanity’s goodness

As my boss flipped on BBC Radio 2 yesterday morning, Monday night’s attack in Manchester filled the soundwaves. Seconds into the broadcast, fear, hate, and sadness filled me.

If you haven’t heard about the attack, yet another barbarous maniac detonated a homemade explosive device as a crowd of elated teenage fans flooded the foyer after an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester Arena.
His act took 22 innocent lives and injured 59 others, mostly children (the youngest identified so far at just eight years old), teens, and parents expectantly waiting for their kids to exit the concert.

As these attacks continue to feel more frequent and selfish killers instill their terror into our hearts (with the media amplifying that fear), many people may have begun to question the safety of travel to places like the UK, Paris, and beyond. Myself included. But listening to the radio this morning and seeing all the messages of love on social media and across the news made me realize:

People are good, are great, are kind, are caring…. everywhere

These tragedies will continue to take us by surprise, and in a way, they should. The second we start to worry that every person who walks into a room plans to harm us is when we start to lose our humanity, our ability to fully live.

I listened and watched with renewed hope as an outpouring of kindness and light was shed on Manchester Monday night and throughout yesterday and today. Hotels opened their doors to stranded youths, emergency personnel rushed to control the scene, and within minutes of the cowardly attack, complete strangers opened their homes to take in those fleeing the scene or those without a place to go.

The message: Love.

The meaning: No matter where you go, people are good.

Over 2.55 million humans call the greater Manchester area home. They take the bus to work, walk to school, meet friends at the pub, borrow sugar from their neighbors. They feel safe in their homes, comfortable in their neighborhoods, happy with the lives they’ve built in the city they love, just like you. Just like me.

In the face of tragedy, they react with bravery and courage. With solidarity and support. People are made of the same tough stuff across the globe, and it is essential that we recognize our similarities and stand together as a global family.

And part of standing together is understanding that tragedies such as this do not just affect a foreign city we’ve never visited, or a tourist hub with a football team we’ve heard about, they affect someone else’s home. We must forget our conditioned notion that where we are is somehow safer than anywhere else just because we are comfortable, and fight against the terrorizing of anyone’s safe place.

You cannot escape danger by never leaving your ‘home’. It’s much more dangerous to close yourself off from the world, to desensitize yourself to the hurting of your worldly neighbors – good people who started their day just like you and met a tragedy no one could foresee.

Latitude and longitude do no predict tragedies. This fact isn’t said enough: it’s no city or country’s fault when tragedy unfolds. While it’s easy to avoid a place out of fear, we need to stop defining our lives by it.

Don’t stop visiting and appreciating the amazing world we live in out of fear. And don’t distance yourself from tragedy because you feel it could never happen to you. Share your empathy, spread your kindness, and prove that love will win. 

Fear has begun to dictate too much of our world, and it’s time we let the light back in. 

*photo from the BBC coverage of the unfolding events

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