The police boats were swirling, their searchlights skipping across the water, as people were running on the bridge just outside our window.
“Bring the girls out here,” I yelled to my wife, Belisa, from our porch overlooking the Thames River.
“What?” she said. “Shouldn’t I bring them back into the room and distract them so that they don’t get scared?”
“No,” I answered. “We’re not sticking our heads in the sand, and neither will they.”
When my 13 and 11-year-old daughters came outside, I whispered into their ears: “There’s a terrorist attack happening right here, right now.”
Shouts from the police boat of “Go back inside!” and “Take cover!” echoed off the water and filled the flat we were staying in.
“Okay, time to leave and get back to our hotel,” I told Belisa.
“Wait,” said my brother-in-law David, a United Nations field officer who is no stranger to being in the middle of dramatic shit. “Might not be a good idea to be on the streets until we know what’s going on.” I thank God he did, because, as it turns out, the fight had moved much closer to us than I had thought.
We backed away from the waterside of the flat and moved into the rooms overlooking the back alley.
“Pull your shit together,” I said to my daughters, who were becoming upset. Harsh words, I know, but when you’re yards away from the epicenter of a terrorist attack with SWAT teams banging down doors and cracking off flashbangs nearby, the fear and tears that begin to burn gotta get extinguished. They needed to realize that fear is a choice, and their choice now, if they allowed it, could be one of purpose and cause. Once things got back to normal would be the time to process the bullshit that freezes too many people from taking effective action.
Big eyes and even bigger breaths settled into calm and resolve as my girls looked up at their mother to confirm that she was on board with what may have seemed like their father being crazy.
I took a position in the corner of the bedroom window to monitor the situation and make sure the fight didn’t make it past the front door of our building. Below me, SWAT-style officers were clearing the alleyways. “Hands in the air!” they shouted. “On the ground slowly.”
Knowing that we had adequate cover and that terrorists are fucking pussies, I told Belisa to send the girls over to me so that I could show them what I was doing and involve them in their own safety. Power and control can’t be outsourced, and this small act would give them a sense of power and control. In a matter of moments, Belisa and I watched as our children transitioned from victims hiding in fear to heroes who would be in charge of their own futures and eventually learn to take charge of others. Exposure does that to a person; it multiplies courage, strengthens capability, and cuts the head off fear.
Once upon a time, there was some logic to sheltering the young from the evil in the world, but that only makes sense if you believe things will get better or if you’ve donned the wooly coat of a sheep and chosen to sit fat, dumb, and defenseless in hopes that the government will protect you. I’d much rather have them learn to protect themselves.
As Navy SEALs were taught in sniper school: “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training.”
Prayers to the families of those who lost loved ones Saturday night, and God bless the brave men and women of England who picked up their guns and stopped evil in its tracks.
And to the mass murderers who’ve joined the ranks of all the other psychopathic serial killers of the past: You are vile scum who accomplish nothing but bolster our spirit to help those who are truly in need. Fuck you. We’re not going anywhere.
Featured image courtesy of Getty
Author: “Raising Men”