I flew back home to London from Barcelona last night, landing just as news was breaking of the attacks in Paris.
Cue a journey home on the train and tube updating Twitter and the BBC news app for more details.
I watched the people around me doing the same, whispering about updates to the death-count and trying to make sense of it all. And then home and lying awake until 2am, watching news reporters and various ‘talking heads’ trying to make sense of it all.
And that’s futile. Trying to find sense in madness like this is a waste of time. The people who did this don’t share our values, our perspectives our the value we place on human life and a free and open society. So it’s exceptionally difficult to understand their point of view.
They didn’t attack a government department, a military installation or a physical symbol of the French State. They attacked the essence of society itself: innocent people out enjoying themselves on a Friday night. Doing things that obviously offend these monsters, like listening to live music and enjoying sport.
Why does this hit so hard, when there are all kinds of other abuses and attacks going on around the world? For me, it’s because this could have been London. I can identify with the victims – they were just like me, like my friends and family. Just trying to enjoy the start of another weekend, eating a meal, telling stories and listening to music.
We don’t know (yet) exactly who did this. But we know that, just like all terrorists, this was about causing fear and spreading hatred.
Let’s not allow that to happen.
Let’s not finger-point and blame entire communities for what happened here. Let’s not blame refugees, who were trying to escape this kind of madness in the first place. Let’s not use it as an excuse to make political points or to ‘prove’ that we were right all along.
Last night, Twitter illustrated both the best and worst of humanity on a single screen. The offers of a safe place to sleep, the sharing of embassy contact details. But also the ‘whataboutery’, the ‘I told you so’ statements and the celebrities weighing in with platitudes. The best and worst in a single Twitter feed.
Let’s hope the former prevail in the weeks and months ahead.