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 email 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, 7 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 and Carry On.
With that said, we all stood up, walked out of the hotel to our appointment, and carried on.