I shudder to think how you got the news. Who knocked on your door last night, or if you even know about your little one you think is having fun, with friends, taking photos that may be the last ones you will ever have of them? No response to your calls, your messages, no word, no nothing. Your life ended yesterday.
At first I only thought of mine. When the news broke my body began to shake, my mind stopped working and I could only think, were they there, did they see anything, but they are safe and I am selfish in my relief. Yet you have not left my thoughts. You will never feel safe again.
When terror attacks, randomly, without purpose, with a fierceness of loathing, intent on hurt, we are paralysed by the hatred. Who would do such a thing? Why end the life of someone not known, not guilty, no enemy on the battlefield of your perceived madness? We can talk about circumstance, being there at the wrong time, it means nothing when your son is stabbed to death and your daughter mowed down through frenzied intent by a stranger. Terrorism only lives by feeding off innocents. Off fresh kills, for what it does not do, nor ever will, is eradicate the human spirit. Paris did not die, Nice, New York, Istanbul and others still go on. London will too. Terrorism will try again and again, and will fail for it has no substance.
It will mean little to you. The next few hours, days and months, and years will know only darkness devoid of colour, of energy, of great joy. You will forget those things, and then you will remember them.
With sorrow, but in a different light also. As every parent must learn, and children will seldom understand until they become parents, the ability to let them go, to wander far and create their own lives is living in fear for their safety and happiness. Life is going to be unfair, unfathomable and unpredictable. You know.
Yesterday I saw your child for the first and last time. Global coverage. I may never know you but you are the one I mourn for. My family may not be immune to terror, or hate, or madness by another’s hands. May feel the brunt of horror and despair so acute the pain will never leave, and I will only then be able to really understand. I hope I never have to, but in your loss, I have learnt that what I have, is precious. I forget that sometimes, and the lesson is awful but true.
The parents of children victim to terrorist attacks, a month ago, a year, many years – they have not moved on. Mark calendars to honour the past for the future is unappealing. Yesterday will mark your life.
They were not alone. Strangers were saints, kindness covered them.
I shall never walk on Westminster Bridge without a little prayer for them.
As the poet Laurence Binyon wrote:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Antoine Leiris, a man who lost wife in the Paris attacks, wrote the following:
‘You want me to be afraid, to view my fellow countrymen with mistrust, to sacrifice my freedom for security.You have lost.’
London will honour your children and never forget them.
I hold you in my heart.