TL;DR – Not if, but when.
It happened again. Another brazen terror attack. This time, in London. And not just any place in London. The attack happened at Westminster where the attacker had the audacity to try to barge into the British Houses of Parliament while Parliament was in session. More than 40 people were injured, and four people, including the attacker, died.
What lessons does this latest attack have for Singapore?
1. Not if but when
This is not the first terror attack in London. What’s perhaps surprising is that the attacker chose to attack a place as heavily guarded as the Houses of Parliament. It just shows how brazen and audacious terrorists can be. It also shows that no where is truly safe from such attacks.
As Minister for Home Affairs, Minister K Shanmugam said on his Facebook:
“(This attack is) A sombre reminder of the clear and present terror threat around the world, and the need to stay vigilant and prepared”
2. In the darkest of days, real heroes appear
After the attack, while most people were fleeing the scene, a group of doctors and nurses from a nearby hospital ran towards the attack to help the injured. NHS staff at St Thomas’ Hospital, which is adjacent to the bridge where the attack took place, rushed to help without hesitation – not knowing whether there was danger ahead and if they were risking their own lives.
Images taken at the scene of the attack show hospital staff attending to casualties, nurses piling up blankets to distribute to those involved in the attack. In one particularly haunting image, a medic clutching his head in despair.
These nurses doctors and nurses have been hailed as heroes who selflessly risk their lives to save the lives of others. Indeed, as one person most eloquently puts it on social media:
“In the darkest of days, hundreds of heroes appear”
When a terror attack happens in Singapore, let’s hope that we will see heroes emerging from all walks of life, ordinary people doing extra-ordinary things. If we do, then we will stand a chance against these terrorists.
3. The moments after the attack is what matter most
The terrorists don’t succeed just because they manage to hurt a few people, or set off some bombs. They win only if their depraved attacks manage to tear Singapore society apart. Professor Yuval Noah Harari, professor at the Department of History of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem wrote:
“Terrorists are like a fly that tries to destroy a china shop. The fly is so weak that it cannot budge even a single teacup. So it finds a bull, gets inside its ear and starts buzzing. The bull goes wild with fear and anger, and destroys the china shop.”
The moments just after an attack is when we need to keep our heads the coolest. We must not lash out in anger, and definitely not against any segment of our society. We need to pull together, united in purpose to fight against those who seek to divide us. As the Westminster leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party Angus Robertson said:
“Today of all days we are reminded, notwithstanding our differences on political and constitutional issues, we are as one in our dedication to democracy, rule of law and harmony between people of all faiths and none.”
Let’s work hard now to ensure that terrorist attacks don’t turn us into bulls. This way, when we are tested, we will be able to stand united as one people, one nation, one Singapore.
For a start, go check out SGSecure, a national movement to sensitise, train and mobilise the community to play a part to prevent and deal with a terrorist attack. It is a call to action for everyone to unite and safeguard our way of life. In a nutshell, SGSecure is our community’s response to the terror threat.