For the first time since forever, the sun is shining and warm on our faces. There’s a lull in hostilities and my girls are playing well together, absorbed in hunting down monsters and running away from foxes in “stinky houses” (nope, no idea). I’m sitting in a large, grassy park watching them act out their dramas, battling with sticks, attempting a tree climb, zooming down a slide or two. Normal, ordinary life – all is right with the world. Except of course it’s not. Two country borders away from where I sit hundreds of family and friends are grieving; trying to make sense of another atrocity. Reassuring children, comforting their communities. Being ordinary people in an extraordinary situation. Brussels is suffering.
I’m well aware that in Syria, in Palestine, in Mali, in Pakistan and Armenia there are thousands, thousands, thousands of people facing this kind of shit on a daily basis and yet only when Paris burnt, when Brussels fell to its knees did I no longer feel immune to terrorism or perhaps more accurately: the fear of terrorism. That kind of disconnect isn’t right and I’m not seeking to justify it. It’s just how it is for all of us.
And how do we worldwide community of “ordinary people” go on functioning day to day with this fear? How do we live in this climate of surprise attack and paranoia. After all, we’re not governments, we have no secret intel or survival skills. I, for, one would have no idea what to do if Geneva’s famous sirens went off for real.
Sitting in the warmth of this spring day, I’m reminded of the 9 February, 1996. The Docklands bomb rattled the windows of my East London home. I was sick. My Irish flatmate gave me a withering look and promptly took me down to the pub. The truth is we’ve lived through it before and we’ll live through it again. Regimes come and go, terrorists terrorise, bombs destroy, guns tear down. A new generation of suicide bombers will murder and maim. As a race we may have moved on from mustard gas and canons but we haven’t evolved far from the selfish, misguided and downright evil motivations that drive us to create even more imaginative ways of killing ourselves.
We ordinary people must keep on being just that: ordinary. Living out our lives despite everything, praying for the safety of our families, teaching our children how to climb trees and putting band aids on knees when they fall. Enjoying the sun and celebrating friendship. If it sounds trite then maybe it is but I for one will not stop being an ordinary human being in extraordinary times.