This morning I woke up to the news that there had been a terrorist attack in my home city. It seemed unreal, like it was almost a dream. The last time that I woke up from what I thought was a lucid dream, the 8 o'clock news announced that Donald Trump had been elected US president. It's a weird world that we live in. But last night's events occurred less than a mile from where I live, and the reality of that hits one square in the face. I didn't hear the explosion, even though the Manchester Arena is so close to my apartment. I had the TV off, and was insulated from the Internet. I was blissfully unaware until I woke up today.
The chances of any one of us being caught up in such an incident are infinitesimally small, yet because we are so well-connected, there is a good chance that I will know somebody who is affected by this. Littlewood's Law states that one person can expect to experience a one-in-a-million event at the rate of about once per month. That can make these tragedies seem more likely and more frequent than they actually are. They are not. This is not normal, and it will never be our normal.
Outside my window, the sun is shining for once, a nice departure from the image accompanying this article. Were it not for the television running BBC News on a loop, you could never tell it was anything but an ordinary day. Life does go on, it must. We cannot allow these crimes to stop us from living our lives. The reports say that at present, there were 22 lives cut short last night. We must remember them, celebrate their brief existence on this earth, and make today about them and their families. We should not even whisper the name of the attacker - let's not give them the attention they crave. Manchester is a great city, and it has carried on in the face of violence before. We care about each other, and that cannot be defeated.
I've been seeing finger-pointing and racism popping up occasionally on Twitter this morning, and if that is allowed to proliferate it will just worsen this horrific event. We know nothing of the attacker's identity, and even when we do, that will tell us nothing about any race, religion, or other affiliation. Like I said above, this is not normal. It is not normal to plot the murder and assault of tens, hundreds of people. It is not normal to build a bomb, carefully assembling it to cause the most harm possible to other human bodies. It is not normal to blow oneself up in a concert venue. Normal people from any walk of life do not do this. Directing hatred and blame towards particular communities implies that it is normal for ordinary members of the public to wish death upon us. It spreads fear and misinformation. It turns the victims into lines in a newspaper column. This was an extreme event, and we must not normalise it or use it for political ends.
Tonight I will be assisting at the vigil outside the Town Hall. I expect there to be people from all of Manchester's diverse communities in attendance. We have heard from community and religious leaders already directing people to their centres for food, shelter, and means of contacting relatives. Bystanders stepped in and transported people to safety. People opened up their homes to those who were stranded. This is normal. This is how we do things in Manchester, and we cannot be stopped.