By Dominique Liboiron
Terror struck England. As you’ve probably heard, 22 people are dead and 59 are injured following a murderous attack in Manchester on the evening of May 22. The youngest victim, Saffie Roussos, was eight years old.
Details are still emerging, but it’s believed a suicide bomber detonated a homemade explosive in the entrance of Manchester Arena as people were leaving a concert by singer Ariana Grande.
Salman Abedi, 22, is the suspect in the bombing. Abedi was born in Manchester to parents of Libyan origin, the BBC reported. He died on scene and police are trying to determine if Abedi acted alone. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the bombing, but there’s no word yet if they’re truly behind the crime or simply taking credit for a fellow terrorist’s chaos.
Abedi’s brother Hashim was arrested and his father Ramadan was detained for questioning. The brother was arrested to determine if he has links to ISIS and to better understand if a network of terrorists facilitated the bombing.
Among the 59 injured are a dozen children younger than 16. It’s hard to imagine how a child who has experienced a terror attack could ever feel safe again when going to a public event like a concert, a hockey game or just to the mall.
The idea of having to prepare kids for a potential terror attack never crossed the mind of anyone in my parents’ generation. The same is true of my teachers. That being said, parents and educators have always been concerned with the well-being of youth, but the two safety messages people my age heard growing up were, “Stop, drop and roll,” and, “Don’t talk to strangers.” Both were meant to keep us safe from what were considered our biggest risks – fire and strangers.
I suspect the fear of strangers is spreading in our society. Several causes come to mind, but the one I feel most qualified to comment on is what passes for journalism. Certain televised US media outlets pump their audience full of fear by sensationalizing gruesome crimes that ruthless criminals perpetrate on innocent victims they don’t even know.
However, media outlets would change their approach if there wasn’t a market for fear-based news. Some members of the viewing public enjoy titillating themselves and others by telling and retelling the week’s most vicious criminal act. Usually, the macabre conversation ends with someone asking, “What’s the world coming to?”
The world is making progress. Although it may be too soon after an attack to say this, the acts of aggression we worry about today pale in comparison to the fear of global nuclear war that gripped people in the 1960s. Terrorists won’t destroy the entire planet.
Suicide bombers leave no doubt that some strangers are capable of extreme violence, but it’s my conviction that in wake of the Manchester attack we must remind ourselves there are a lot of good strangers left in the world. Here are some examples.
Not long ago, a buddy of mine told me about a road trip he and his friends made in their early 20s. Everything was going fine until their van broke down in Wyoming. They limped their vehicle to a service station where the mechanic said the travellers wouldn’t be going anywhere for at least two days until the replacement part arrived. A man in the service station overheard the mechanic. He owned a ranch nearby and offered to let my buddy and his friends stay on the place. They hesitated, but with nothing better to do they agreed.
Apart from letting them camp on the ranch, the man invited them to fish in the trout stream that weaved through the property and he bought all their meals. His generosity was the highlight of their entire road trip.
Speaking from personal experience, one of the kindest strangers I met was a lady named Shelley who lives in Pierre, the capital of South Dakota. She owned a confectionery near a campground where I stayed while canoeing on the Missouri River. When Shelley saw me pitch my tent, she asked where I was canoeing to. I answered and she assumed I’d need groceries so she said I could use her car for the afternoon. She asked I not put gas in it because that would insult her.
To be honest, I’d never let a stranger borrow my vehicle, but Shelley isn’t me so she didn’t hesitate. After buying groceries, I secretly filled her car’s windshield washer fluid as a thank you.
Let’s not lose sight of the fact the vast majority of strangers are kind, but their acts of simple goodness don’t make the headlines. Consider this, the stories of the planes that land don’t make the news. We only hear about the ones that don’t.