Edith Bowman on why we should go on as usual in the face of terrorism
During the 20 or so years that I’ve lived in London, I’ve witnessed quite a number of life-changing, unnerving events. I’m not sure if it’s because I now have kids, but the recent attack on Westminster really affected me, physically. As it was unfolding, I was taking part in a panel discussion in Piccadilly on the subject of ‘What it means to be British’, so myself and the other 200 attendees were oblivious to what was going on just down the road.
As it finished, I switched on my phone. I had eight missed calls from my husband, who was away in Oxfordshire working on a new album. For some reason, my body wavered. ‘Is everyone OK?’ he asked before I’d even heard the phone ring again. ‘Yeah I’m all good thanks luv. You?’ I replied. Then he told me what was going on and I felt sick, and anxious. I just wanted to get home, round up the kids and lock the door.
The driver of the black cab I flagged down had himself only just heard the news. Jack was his name, and we had a non-stop conversation for the entire 20-minute drive home. What a lovely, gentle man who – like me – had so many questions, and also felt that sinking sense of helplessness. Together, over the radio, we heard about the bravery and selflessness of all the amazing people who were trying to help.
My four year old was bouncing around the kitchen with his Star Wars toys. When I got home, I hugged him that little bit harder. An hour later, I’d normally walk up to Hampstead to pick up ‘Thing 1’ – he’s eight, and we use the 20-minute walk home to just chat about ‘stuff.’ But today I drove, literally swung into school on a vine, then swung him back out and into the car.
On the way back we had to pull over for an unmarked police car, blue lights flashing, siren wailing, to shoot past us. I had to catch my breath.
I woke up the next morning numb. Getting into Virgin Radio for my breakfast show, my producer Mick and I spent ages pondering the events, trying to put into words what we felt. I wondered why I couldn’t express my feelings clearly.
ONWARDS AND UPWARDS
But one thing was very clear to me. I didn’t like how it had made me almost hyper suspicious of people on the street or of those who looked slightly ‘questionable’ on the tube. In a conscious bid to overcome this, I’ve since gone out of my way to smile at people, and communicate, if only through gestures to people on public transport. It’s my way of saying ‘F*&% you’ to the terrorists. You’re not going to make me fear my city, the incredible diversity and the humans who live in it.
My love and thoughts are with those affected, and my gratitude goes out to the emergency services, who strive to keep my city safe every day.
Listen to Edith Bowman at Breakfast every weekday from 6am-10am on Virgin Radio, virginradio.co.uk
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Read more: Edith Bowman on being a working mum