Like many, Ros and I were appalled and saddened to learn of the attack in Manchester last Monday. So many young lives cut down, so many families adrift. Terrible as this is, this is certainly not the sole act of terrorism and barbarism around the world. Yesterday we heard of an Egyptian attack in Libya on a bus carrying Coptic Christians (people of this religion deliberately targeted), with half of the 50 people killed, the others all wounded, some of these again mere children. Who are their families, who must also now be in dreadful mourning as much as those in Manchester?
And like everyone else, we’ve been trying to make some sense of the Manchester attack, and other terrible attacks. You start with some personal connection. Ros & I know the place around the Manchester Arena. The last time we were in that particular area we were attending a celebration parade of the Rio Olympic athletes. A great day.
Our niece attends one of Manchester’s Unis., studying a branch of clinical psychology, hoping to become a therapist. She was in her residence on Monday night, so is ok.
So yes, Manchester rates, Manchester rocks — as the poet Tony Walsh testified at Wednesday’s vigil.
But then this. How to deal with this?
The passage of time helps to heal, to put victims in a framework of hope, to focus on those who help. I remember back to September 2001, we all remember back, how we all dealt with that or tried to (can anyone “deal” with events like this– of course they are not ‘events’ like natural disasters, “acts of God”–they are hard enough to comprehend, but are the result of the deliberate actions of people). And a memory further back in 1979 when I stood on the observation deck of the eastern of the twin towers. In the mid 90s I paused when I heard of the “scare” of a bomb threat at the twin towers foiled, thinking ‘My goodness, if the authorities hadn’t been successful, that would be unimaginable…’ But the unimaginable happened less than a decade later. I was on the school pickup run that day. My son and the son & daughter of good friends of ours piled in, all excited about some lesson they’d just come from and I thought, ‘They don’t know… the school somehow doesn’t know or hasn’t told them . .’ I knew I had to say something before we reached home, it was really difficult to bring them down from their school high (which of course is usually to be celebrated). I remember our 17 year old daughter was already home, sitting in front of the television saying “Dad, I’m not watching a movie. This has happened.” I also remember that evening after the kids were in bed Ros and I were sitting, not knowing what to do, how to react, we were numb by that point. I got on email and sent two words to a good friend, who is a CofE vicar, “What? Why?”
His equally brief reply:
“Christ’s body broken.”
– – – – – –
Last month we had our Palm Sunday service, our annual remembering of our Lord’s passion and suffering; and Jesus’ supremely overwhelming act of redemption Easter morning.
To understand Manchester, to have a sense and true measure of the loss of innocents, to have any knowledge of what those families are going through, is to know Jesus’ suffering, death — and resurrection.
By this we know the families, that city and all who witness, and those in Libya, Syria, Paris, New York… CAN come through these times.