Students at King’s College London — near the site of Wednesday’s attack in which five people died — reflect on Europe’s latest terrorist act.

A chalk drawing in Trafalgar Square, London, 24 March 2017 (EPA/Hannah McKay)
A chalk drawing in Trafalgar Square, London, 24 March 2017 (EPA/Hannah McKay)
Below are reflections written by students at King’s College London (KCL) following Wednesday’s attack in London in which five people died. KCL is about a mile away from the site of the killings, Britain’s deadliest attack since the 2005 London bombings.

“Terrorism has changed the way in which we see conflict today.”

– Emma Bapt

I exited Embankment station on my way to class on the morning of the attack – same as every other weekday. Embankment station is less than a 10-minute walk from Westminster – where the first terrorist attack since 2005 hit London on Wednesday.

Emma Bapt
Emma Bapt

I tuned into Live Sky News at King’s College Library to watch the events unfolding. A stream of messages in the Facebook sidebar appeared and I was shocked at the number of hate messages coming in. Many were sending hate comments about Muslims and Islam when the incident had barely been marked “terrorist.”

The frenzy on my way home was palpable – people, including me, were pressed to get home to safety. Those on the streets were marking themselves “Safe” on Facebook.

To me, the attack felt like a broken vinyl – a replay of other attacks Europe has faced this past year.

What struck me was the efficiency with which UK police and anti-terrorist forces were deployed to Westminster area and the level to which the attack became globally known in a matter of minutes.

To say that I feel safer now would be a lie. Terrorism has changed the way in which we see conflict today. War is no longer restrained to a battlefield; the battlefield is everywhere. The London attack has again proved the need to be vigilant and in solidarity with those affected.

***

“An impenetrable show of solidarity and unity”

– Kit Keane

As a skeptical millennial, I always consume news with a hypercritical eye. But it’s a totally different thing altogether to experience — first hand — an impenetrable show of solidarity and unity by the government, institutions and people.

kkeane
Kit Keane

I don’t think it really fully hit me until the day after the attack when I attended the “vigil” at Trafalgar Square. Until then, I had viewed the attack in a very political and detached way.

I think I believed it to be exaggerated; I didn’t yet comprehend what sort of grotesque and unwarranted and random loss of life took place. It was being with others in such a wrongfully politicized space that finally exposed me to the magnitude of the situation.

It was foreboding. I was … I am … honestly fearful of the sorts of potential justifications for police state and mass scrutiny this could foster. My feelings have evolved from those of confusion about some notion of a distant “Terror,” into a plump, anxious cloud ready to burst.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan finished with something along the lines of: “The Terrorists will not defeat Us. We will defeat Them.”  I looked at my friend, recalling vague pronoun rules… who is “Us”? Who is Them? What are We really fighting against? What are we fighting for?

***

“We are all equally disgusted.”

– Ruben Tjon-A-Meeuw

I was on my way to basketball practice when the attack occurred, when I received a notification on my phone. Although my solidarity goes out to those affected, the whole thing didn’t really change that much about my day. I had fun playing basketball and then went home to do some coursework.

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Ruben Tjon-A-Meeuw

The attack itself didn’t really come up again, except for a few of my family members asking whether everything was okay.

London, Paris, Brussels … It is all the same. This is something we will have to live with for the foreseeable future.

If anything, I was impressed by the resilience which the city showed. The only discernible effect I could make out was that the beer delivery for a social event of my basketball club got mixed up and ended up in some other part of London, probably due to the turbulence caused by the attack.

I’ve seen several posts on social media saying, “This is not Islam,” and that we would not let this divide us. To be honest, I think this goes without saying. London is the most multicultural place I’ve ever lived in, and my friends are from all over the world, of different creeds and colors. We are all equally targeted by this. We are all equally disgusted by the actions of those who seek to spread hate and violence.

***

“These events should bring people together.”

– Clémentine Babin-Heynard

When the attack took place, I was studying at my university library near the Strand, not far from Westminster. I learned about the attack from a friend who told me there had been a shooting near the UK Parliament. My first reaction was to follow the live event on Sky News.

Cultural Revolution
Clémentine Babin-Heynard

Needless to say I was shocked and worried. My immediate thoughts were rather confused as it was unclear at that time what had really happened, if people had been killed, and whether the attack was of a terrorist nature.

As matters became clearer, my feelings evolved into a mixture of anger, fear and empathy for the victims. When ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, lassitude overcame me. These kinds of events have been happening more and more in the last year, and the level of surprise I experience at each new terror attack has gradually diminished.

These events create an environment of fear. Even though we start neglecting the risk of an attack after a few months have passed, we know that it will happen again. It is a constant state of mind which leads people to feel unsafe.

The attack at Westminster has proved the British police forces’ ability to act quickly; the attacker was neutralized before even entering the Parliament.

I was struck by the rapidity with which news of the attack spread thanks to regular and social media. As soon as the event took place, information was flowing from everywhere. Social media allowed people to express their thoughts.

For me, it is important to build solidarity within our societies. But it can also lead people to spread messages of hate. The number of hate messages directed at the Muslim community shocked me. I think these events should bring people together, rather than divide them.


Emma Bapt is a second-year undergraduate student at King’s College London, studying History and War Studies. She has lived in London, Singapore, Hong Kong, Milan and Paris. She is interested in learning about the dynamics of conflict and looking at peace-building around the world. She was News-Decoder’s summer intern in 2016.

Kit Keane is a first-year undergraduate student at King’s College London, studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE). She is from Washington, DC, is passionate about philosophy and creative writing, and hopes to become a screenwriter.

Ruben Tjon-A-Meeuw is a Swiss national in his second year of undergraduate studies at King’s College London, pursuing a degree in European Studies. He is interested in history, current affairs and economics.

Clémentine Babin-Heynard is a French national and second-year undergraduate student at King’s College London, studying War Studies. She is passionate about journalism and would like to focus on war journalism and art journalism in the future. 

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