I love London. Fond memories and a life spent reading its street names in books carved my affection. Every time it is struck, I am perturbed. Having endlessly walked along Waterloo and London Bridges, it could very easily have been me, or anyone I know. A life lost is potential shattered, and it is beyond me how this loss of life benefits the perpetrators or the craven agitators behind them.
Pictures of people leaving the scene with hands beside their heads evoked images of Edvard Munch’s the Scream, lithographed over and over. One by one, stunned faces, gaping mouths, and incredulous eyes walked away from the horrific scene, their muted screams seemed eerily audible, momentarily disfigured by the tragedy to which they bore witness and overwhelmed by a blend of horror and disbelief. Sorrow and rage would follow hours or days later.
Those who walked aghast off the bridge shared the trepidation of Munch’s protagonist. In the painting, the Screamer is presumably caught on a pass between a slaughterhouse and an asylum; leisure grounds for the sort of men who would contemplate such an attack. The emotionally disfigured character wavers in the harsh cry of nature with blurred perception, bloodied cognition, and the acute signs of derealization syndrome.
I remember sifting similar emotions on a bleak night years ago. After a terrorist attack that took the lives of over 200 people, I was standing in a large hospital foyer deluged by blood, ankles wading among charcoaled carcasses and bodies burned beyond recognition. An orderly was perfunctorily mopping the sanguineous floor, shepherding blood, charred skin, wails, moans and last breaths towards a drain in the corner. He had gone through this before. Now his emotional range was calloused, his abject shock permanent. And laid on the ground were mothers and brothers, daughters and friends who had all woken up that day with plans for the months ahead, now reduced to the latest statistic of terrorism. It was all surreal. I would be able to cry four days later.
Despite my attempts at ignoring it, it is a memory that haunts me. Similar visions will forever scar those who were witnesses to terrorism. I can only pray, to the same God that these terrorists purport to serve, that London remains calm, resilient, steadfast, and carries on as the beacon that shines for millions of students, refugees and destitute voyagers from around the world.