Many people think “it won’t affect me”, but terrorism affects us all directly or indirectly. The impacts of a terrorist attack for the victims, survivors and bereaved last for years, even decades afterwards.
On the International Day of Remembrance and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism of the United Nations, we must recognize the action of survivors and victims, as well as the families, friends and communities of those affected, who live with the lasting legacy of terrorism.
I survived the Westminster Bridge terrorist attack in March 2017. I understand firsthand the difficulties that survivors may face. Throughout August and September, I will be traveling to the United States to meet victims of terrorist attacks, provide peer-to-peer support and share my story with local communities to raise awareness among young people in particular, especially emphasizing the need for connection, solidarity and constant vigilance in the face of these evolving threats.
Prior to my visit, I spoke to survivors from around the world to reflect on their personal experiences, the work they have done since the attack, and what ‘remembrance’ and ‘commemoration’ really mean to them.
In my interview with Cath Hill, a survivor of the Manchester Arena attack, she shared: “I took my son to see his very first concert on May 22, 2017. It should have been a happy memory. Little did we know the event would change our lives forever. We got away with it unscathed and people say we were the lucky ones.
“To some extent we were, but since then we’ve been living with the psychological consequences and struggling with survivor’s guilt every day. By learning from the experiences of young people, our collective hope is that we can ensure that children affected by terrorist attacks receive the best possible support in the future.
Cath started the Bee the Difference project with the National Emergencies Trust, a nod to the worker bees that have become synonymous with Manchester’s resilience after the bombing. The project, led by nine young survivors who were all under the age of 18 at the time of the attack, calls on young people who were affected by the attack to share in a survey their experiences of the support they received to help d other young people who could be affected by future attacks.
It is truly commendable that young people can recover from such horrific circumstances to seek to improve the situation of others, and I urge anyone affected by the attack to contact us.
Another one I spoke to was Dot Hill, a survivor of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995: “I was working in the office and sitting in the break room when the device went off. exploded at 9:02 a.m., partially collapsing the building and leaving devastation in its wake.My memories of the traumatic incident left deep, unseen scars.
“It has been 27 years since the attack, and I still find it difficult to shake off the graphic and painful images that have stuck with me since that day. We know that terrorists often start at a young age and that there “has a worrying increase in the number of children drawn into terrorism. As a society, we need to be better equipped to detect and respond to signs of radicalization.”
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I set up the Resilience in Unity project to provide a platform for survivor stories, like those of Cath and Dot. Their testimonies clearly demonstrate the benefits of listening to those most affected, ensuring that we learn from their experiences to improve our counterterrorism efforts and policies. The platform aims to create a meaningful digital legacy for those who have lost their lives in acts of terrorism around the world, while educating society at large about the risks of terrorism, how to recognize warning signs and create resources to help counter the spread of hatred and division within communities.
In the UK, we recently paid tribute to several of the incidents that took place in 2017, as well as to the many killed and injured in the July 7 attacks in 2005. The commemorations provide us with an important opportunity to engage survivors, and to them to unite to support each other.
I recently met with representatives from Downing Street to propose that we organize a national day of service in honor of the victims of terrorism – a day when we, as a nation, can all take time to reflect on the impact of our actions on each other and tangible things we can do locally to prevent radicalization, protecting our community, friends and family, remembering those we have lost to terrorism.
With the departure of the Prime Minister, the future of these plans remains uncertain. But I sincerely hope that whoever takes his place will be willing to listen to victims and recognize the unique role we can play in preventing future attacks – if only we have the chance.
Travis Frain is the founder of Resilience in Unity