For those who aren’t aware of what happened yesterday in London, here are the basic facts: A terrorist (who doesn’t deserve to be named) drove across Westminster Bridge in London, mounted the pavement, and plowed into pedestrians on the sidewalk. In the process, he injured 29 people and killed two — including an American named Kurt Cochran, who was there celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary with his wife.
The assailant then crashed his car into railings outside the houses of Parliament before running towards them and stabbing police officer Keith Palmer, who later died. Heroically, Tobias Ellwood, a conservative foreign office minister and former soldier, attempted to revive Palmer before medics arrived.
Inside the houses of Parliament, the Prime Minster and MPs (military police) were quickly evacuated, while others were held there until it was deemed safe to leave. It was a chaotic, frightening scene — one which involved a father and his 2-year-old son. According to The Huffington Post UK, the father and son were held within Parliament for hours, unable to return home until 9:30 PM.
But today, the man’s 6-year-old daughter penned heartfelt “thank you” cards to both the Parliament police and nursery staff who kept them both safe.
The sweet cards have since gone viral, after her mom Claire Reynolds, from Greater Manchester, tweeted a picture of them. As she later explained to HuffPost UK, Reynold’s husband was supposed to pick up his daughter at nursery school that day, but due to the Parliament lockdown, another parent had to step in.
“I explained that the nursery staff and police were keeping them safe. The kids come in and out of parliament several times a week and the police are extremely kind to them, so she was very sad to hear that an officer had died.”
The adorable cards both say “THANKS,” with one used as an acrostic poem spelling the words “teamwork, helpfulness, always friendly, necessary, kind and super.”
“She loves writing and making cards and she surprised me by making these whilst eating breakfast this morning,” her mom shared, “Kids are much better at saying thank you than we are.”
It seems clear that Reynolds did a good job discussing what was going on with her daughter, but as all parents know, explaining terrorist attacks to small children is never easy. And I know yesterday’s attacks certainly weren’t easy for me to explain to mine.
As footage of the car speeding along the pavement began circulating online, I was eating dinner with my kids. I live just outside London, having lived in the capitol previously for 15 years. Naturally, my children immediately started to ask what had happened.
My 6-year-old’s first worry was for our friends. “They didn’t die, did they?” he asked, with a horrified look on his face.
Thanks to Facebook’s Safety Check tool, most of our friends and family who live or work in London were quickly accounted for — they were able to click a box to let us know they were safe, and I was able to assure my daughter right away.
My 10-year-old son, on the other hand, wanted to know if this meant we would never go into London again. I promised him that a random act of terrorism would never stop us — that we would carry on going in and out of London any time we wanted.
But then he asked something that gave me pause: “How do we know it won’t ever happen to us?”
The sad truth is, we don’t.
My next move was to turn to Google, which told me that the first thing you should do when trying to explain these kinds of situations to kids is make sure they feel safe, above all else. Reassure them that terrorist attacks are mercifully rare, and that clever intelligence people are working with the government and the police to make sure we are all safe. Be as honest as you can be, without going into too much gory detail. After all, children have a way of seeing through lies and want to know the truth.
But talking about London with my kids yesterday made me recall what it was actually like when I lived there.
There was the time the tube lines all shut down in heavy snow, and I walked home in the bitter cold, making friends along the way.
And the time we all congregated at our local pub the night of the 7/7 bombings, vowing that these acts of terrorism would not make us leave our beloved city.
But most of all, I remembered how time and again I received the kindness of strangers.
All of these memories motivated me to prove to my kids that despite these random acts of violence, there is still goodness in this world; and yesterday showed us that. I dug up news stories of passersby stopping to help the wounded, and the courageous emergency services who risked their own lives attending the scene. And just this morning, I found a letter on Facebook, posted by an anonymous police officer who had been at Westminster during the attack that warmed my heart.
“Pass on all my thanks to all the Londoners who stopped and spoke to me in the aftermath of the attack as we stood in uniform providing reassurance. I was a bit choked by the amount of thanks, best wishes and condolences that were passed and it shows London as the fantastic city that it is.”
More than anything, I wanted to show my kids that in the worst moments we also get to see the best of people. As Lord Mayor of London once said:
“London is the greatest city in the world and we stand together in the face of those who seek to harm us and destroy our way of life. We always have and we always will. Londoners will never be cowed by terrorism.”
And in my heart, I honestly believe every word of that to be true.