What we can learn from the Paris attacks
On the 11th September 2001 I was pulling into the car park of ED, the discount supermarket where I did some of my shopping in France, when I heard the DJ interrupt the music on the radio to announce that an aeroplane had crashed into the World Trade Centre in New York.
On the 7th July 2005 I was sitting grinning to myself at my desk in France, happy in the secret knowledge that I was pregnant with my first baby (that I sadly miscarried a week later), when a colleague rushed up to my desk to ask me if my family and friends in London were ok following the bombings that morning. It was the first I’d heard about it. (Luckily everyone I know was fine.)
On the 14th November 2015 I woke up in our new home in Mauritius, and picking up my phone I checked in to Facebook, where I immediately read about shootings and bombings in Paris from the night before (we are 3 hours ahead of France and 4 hours ahead of the UK).
Add in Madrid bombings and Mumbai bombings and that’s 5 times in the last 14 years that I’ve shaken my head and wondered why. That I’ve thanked my lucky stars. That I’ve hugged my friends and family that little bit tighter.
I am still reeling from what happened in Paris, and I sincerely hope that this doesn’t start a chain reaction of hatred. Or finger-pointing at Muslims. Or finger-pointing at refugees. It was a group of terrorists involved in Friday night’s attacks. Not a whole religion. Not a whole nationality. Not a whole social group. And I hope people realise and remember this moving forwards.
After each bombing, shooting and terrorist attack world leaders show their support, there are days of mourning, it is the only subject of conversation in pubs, across dinner tables and on social media the world over. The government of the country affected vows to find the perpetrators, and brings in more security measures – more controls, more army on the streets, more protection for its civilians. And more parents, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and friends mourn their loved ones who were taken too soon, going about their everyday life.
Sadly there is one thing I’m 99% certain of: this will happen again. In a different place. In a different way. Because that seems to be the world we now live in. Cowardly attacks on people simply living their lives seem to be the way forward in modern-day war. And as much as governments want us to think we’re safe they can’t ever really guarantee it. The army can’t be everywhere. The police can’t be everywhere. Anti-terrorist agencies can’t tap into every private conversation to protect us.
I really, really hope I’m proven wrong and that this is the last attack of its kind, but despite being an eternal optimist, on this subject I’m realistic.
So we have two options:
We can either stay at home and live in fear. Never travel. Never go out. Never go to the cinema. Never go to concerts. Never go to football matches. Never venture into crowded areas. In the hope that will keep us safe.
Or we can accept that there are risks in everything we do in life. There are risks in our own home. There are risks in leaving the house to do the school run. There are risks getting behind the wheel of our own car, even if we are perfect drivers. There are also risks that there is someone ready and waiting to take your life in a brutal way when you least expect it.
So what can we learn from Paris? From New York? From London? From Madrid? From Mumbai?
Everyone will take from this what they will, but for me this is what it means: Life is short and none of us know when it might be cut shorter. So…
- Love and show your love
- Say sorry and forgive
- Accept forgiveness
- Do what makes you happy, not what you feel you should do
- Live where you want, even if it means taking risks
- Don’t leave anything unspoken
- Spend time with your kids, your partner, your family, your friends
- Spend time with yourself, looking after yourself and doing what makes you happy
- Stop worrying about what other people think, they’re less interested in you than you think they are
- Celebrate all the good stuff – the birthdays, the weddings, the births
- Live every single day as if it were your last as you never know when that might just be the case