We were celebrating my friend’s birthday in a pub, when someone mentioned that “something happened on London Bridge”. Soon I got a message from my mum, who wanted to make sure I was fine. Not much later the news were getting more and more upsetting. A van? A stabbing? How many victims?!
When we were going back home, some random people approached us on the train station to check if we were aware what happened (because we were actually heading in Vauxhall/Borough Market direction). I think only then I realised how serious it was. I felt safe-ish only when I finally made it to my room…
Many of you might have had similar experiences last night. Also, if you’re pretty new to living in a big city, it could have been the first time you had to deal with such news (or second, if you happened to be around during the Westminster attack). The big question is: what now?
First things first, make sure your relatives know you’re fine. Yes, it’s very unlikely to be a victim of a terrorist attack, but emotions play a role too. I’m a statistician, so I actually checked the numbers. According to Ashley Kirk from The Telegraph, in the UK the risk of being killed by terrorists is relatively low; you’re much more likely to die in a car accident. Having said that, I still contacted my friends (or used the Facebook “safe check”, which is a surprisingly good idea), just in case.
A few friends suggested that I should stay home today, or even move back to Poland. I know that they care about me and I really appreciate it, but it’s definitely not the solution. This is exactly what the terrorists want. They want us to surrender, to resign from our normal activities, hide at home. I was pleased to see that Londoners did the opposite. Cafes and restaurants are full, people are enjoying the sun, just the way it should be. Yes, I felt a bit uneasy crossing the bridge. Yes, I took a closer look at all the big vans passing by. However, I realised how irrational my fear was and carried on.
Of course I’m not encouraging you to be careless. Pay attention to your surroundings, report anything unusual or worrying. Better safe than sorry, really! In the worst case scenario (very unlikely, but let’s be prepared) of a terrorist attack, follow the instructions issued by the Metropolitan Police: “run, hide, tell” (get out of the area if possible; hide and silence your phone if not; and call 999 if safe to do so).
Remember that your mental health is important too! If you feel overwhelmed by what happened, make sure you talk to somebody – a friend, a family member, or maybe a professional (Imperial College offers the Student Counselling Service, free of charge). I think everyone feels sad, scared or angry today – and that’s ok.
If you’re a Muslim, you might need to prepare for some painful comments. For some weird reason one can still find people who believe that your religion is the source of terrorism – AND THAT’S NOT ACCEPTABLE. My advice would be to completely ignore them, because these attacks have nothing to do with you and any suggestions that “we should get rid of immigrants” shouldn’t be tolerated.
Last but not least, make sure that these people didn’t die in vain. Last night’s events helped me put things into perspective and reminded me what really matters. Terrorists use fear and hatred; we can fight against them with love and friendship. So find a hippie in yourself and enjoy your life – because every day is a miracle.