Sadly, in recent times, terror attacks and incidents seem to have become more and more frequent. The British government, police force and indeed citizens can barely recover from the aftermath of one terrorist incident before another occurs – this is the crazy world in which we now live in.
With it being an impossibility for everybody to always be on guard – which would essentially destroy our daily routine (e.g. jobs and school) – one question still arises: how can we protect ourselves from these shocking attempts to take peoples’ lives?
Barely two months ago, the UK experienced a terrorist incident in the heart of London – at Westminster Palace. Khalid Masood drove a large SUV across Westminster Bridge, weaving as he drove, in order to knock down, cripple and kill as many pedestrians as he could. Four people lost their lives on the bridge. He then crashed into a metal wall surrounding the Houses of Parliament and proceeded to enter the grounds, where he was confronted by a noble policeman, PC Keith Palmer, who later died in his attempts to prevent others losing their lives.
The unnerving thing about this attack was the speed at which it took place: the whole incident – from Masood entering the bridge to being shot by armed police – lasted only 82 seconds. And so, once again, the question arises: how can police and secret service forces possibly deal with an incident that unravels this quickly?
That’s the thing.
More recently, at the Manchester Arena on May 22, a 22-year-old suicide bomber identified as Salman Abedi, killed 22 people and injured 59. One of his victims was an eight-year-old girl and, given that it was an Ariana Grande concert – a singer who has a large teenage support – a significant percentage of the audience were children and adolescents.
The Manchester Arena has a capacity of 21,000 – this means that it holds more people than both Hearts’ Tynecastle Park and Hibs’ Easter Road stadiums here in Edinburgh, and it attracts more than one million visitors a year. Additionally, it is the largest indoor arena in all of Europe, and it has hosted ‘some of the biggest names in live entertainment’ since its opening in 1995.
In the audience sat young children, many with their parents. The victims were children. And, still, so many people missing. Families are right now sitting and praying, hoping that loved ones and relatives will be found.
Have we reached a point where security should be much tighter, even if it causes inconvenience?
It is well known that MI5 and the secret service intercepts and prevents a large quantity of terror plots every year. They have access to communications and, given that I am reading Dan Brown’s Digital Fortress (which explores the theory of an unbreakable code), I would assume that they have their own cryptography and code-breaking division too.
However, when attacks occur so spontaneously, and are as simple as using a heavy vehicle to inflict as much damage and chaos as is humanly possible, it is nearly impossible for the secret service, their informants, and the police to prevent similar attacks arising. This is because when a car (for example) is so commonplace in today’s modern, hi-tech society, and there are no sophisticated, illegal weapons involved, how on earth are the police able to discover details about the attack?
The vehicle used in the Westminster attack was stolen – that is how the attack began – and it is well known that burglaries are impossible to entirely ‘prevent’: we can only strengthen our locks and houses to try and (metaphorically) build up the height of the wall that the burglar has to scale.
Terror (alongside everything else in today’s society) is evolving at an alarming rate. The more recent rise of Islamic State (IS) seems to be resulting in a (much) greater number of attacks than there has been previously. In reality, while our police force seems to be on the end of some heavy criticism, it is an undeniable fact that they do their best in order to try and save the lives of British people. It is they – and the secret service (who prevent attacks) – that deserve to be commended for their effort in seeking out those who do us harm, in order to save lives.
So is there any way to escape terror? I don’t think myself, or indeed anybody else, really knows.
There lies the sadness at the heart of the matter.