Any attack on innocents is reprehensible, a sudden shattering of lives and homes spitting fear and distrust like shrapnel. There’s a reason attacks like yesterday’s bombing of the Manchester Arena are called ‘terror’.
But to target this place at this time is a warped and twisted ritual, demanding the sacrifice of children on the altar of whatever toxic beliefs drove someone to walk into a concert and take their own life and those of others. We gather together to celebrate and sing and listen to music, just as we have from the dawn of civilisation, then suddenly all of that is torn away, leaving broken-hearted families and traumatised communities and further brokenness arising from the ashes – division and rage, media replaying the final moments of teenagers on a 24/7 cycle with no thought to empathy. Explosions reverberate.
But other echoes can be louder. Last night, Twitter was filled with offers of sanctuary, free taxi rides, cups of tea. Emergency services waded into Hell and saved lives. “Look for the helpers”, the saying goes; it’s the helpers who hold things together, who do whatever they can do, who become beacons in the night. “Our doors are open,” the helpers say, “We’ll keep you safe.”
Teacups vs nail bombs seems an unfair fight. But when fighting terror, cups of tea, friendship, hospitality can be formidable, shields against division and violence and hatred of all stripes. We win by deploying kindness and compassion; we give our homes for shelter, we give our cars for lifts, we plug phones into chargers, they ring and bring relief. We give our blood and donate it to hospitals. In isolation these don’t sound all that powerful, not compared to a suicide vest, but together these are the things with which we build and rebuild. Together we hold the line. And though right now all the songs are sad, together we keep on singing.