It is almost difficult to think, let alone speak or even type right now. Thankfully, it seems none of the many people I know who work in and around Westminster were among those injured or killed today – but that is my individual fortune. The families and friends of three people are not so fortunate this evening, and those of the many injured by today’s act of wanton and callous violence face days, if not weeks or months, of uncertainty before they can breathe easily once more.
In times of such despair, however, it is the many stories of quite incredibly raw humanity, spirit and decency that sustain us. For one, we can take great pride in being a society in which every effort was made to save the attacker’s life, as he lay mere metres from the police officer he had murdered just seconds previous. A common narrative to emerge from certain quarters after such atrocities is the claim that we, by way of our foreign policy, are somehow no better than those who attack us. “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”, as they say. Perhaps. But terrorists infrequently rush to save the lives of freedom fighters. It sets us apart, and above, when even as our streets were stained with the blood of innocents, our emergency services fought with dedication to save the life of the man who had spilled it.
As paramedics battled to save the attacker’s life, however, it was but a few metres away that Tobias Ellwood MP was himself attempting to resuscitate the police officer who would, sadly, not survive. So often derided as detached and uncaring, the remarkable images to since emerge, of a politician smeared in the blood of a devoted public servant he had tried to save will endure in the public consciousness far longer than the terror intended by the assailant.
We must also remember the incredible bravery of NHS workers at St. Thomas’s hospital. Upon hearing of a terrorist attack in our vicinity, most of us would react by running away. The clinicians of St. Thomas’s ran toward it. Their unwavering, instinctive decision to hasten into a situation of unknown and unquantifiable danger is a testament to their spectacular devotion to saving people’s lives.
These are just small, brilliant flashes perforating the black cloud that envelopes Britain tonight but, having seen the heroic compassion and desperation to preserve human life that was on show today I have never been prouder to be British. Just as our greatest tests bring our greatest victories, and our moments of worst division prompt our most concerted unity, the darkest times in our society often reveal the brightest light.