Londoners keep calm and carry on

Commuters walking across London Bridge, on June 5, 2017, after it was partially re-opened following the June 3 terror attack.
Commuters walking across London Bridge, on June 5, 2017, after it was partially re-opened following the June 3 terror attack.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • The first reports of "an incident" in London emerged on Saturday evening.

Within hours, cable news channels were saturated with the all- too-familiar loop of panicked faces, desperate crowds scurrying for safety and scowling, heavily armed police. On Sunday morning, the New York Times said the latest terrorist attack in London had targeted a nation "still reeling" from a suicide bombing in Manchester last month.

On Sunday, some Londoners started pushing back against the notion that their city - if not their country - was trembling in fear.

They had a simple message: "London is not reeling."

Their defiance was epitomised by an image that has been shared more than 26,000 times, showing a man casually holding a pint of beer as he joins others fleeing the scene of last Saturday night's attack.

Steely resilience in the face of unforgiving tragedy is considered a fixture of British patriotism, according to the popular narrative.

That defiant love of country was forged amid the Nazi bombing campaigns of World War II, the narrative goes, a period in which ordinary Londoners kept their chins up as death rained from above.

British social media users were quick to remind the world of that courageous spirit in the wake of last Saturday's attack. "Keep calm and carry on" - the popular World War II mantra that came to define the city's resolute character - was quickly resurrected online.

In a statement posted on Twitter, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was appalled by the "horrific attack", but noted that London "will never be cowed by terrorism".

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling also tweeted: "The thugs who mowed down innocent people would love to think of the UK 'reeling', but it isn't. Don't confuse grief with lack of courage."

As the authorities continue their investigation, some residents are calling for calm.

On his blog, Guardian columnist Owen Jones penned a post emphasising that terrorism's success is dependent upon its impact. Mr Jones said he was sharing a drink with friends when news of the attack started spreading. He wrote that people continued for many hours to laugh, chat, drink and dance. Not because they didn't care, he pointed out, but because they intended to carry on with their lives after checking on their loved ones.

Mr Richard Angell, who was in the Arabica bar and kitchen in Borough Market during the attack, returned to the restaurant on Sunday to pay his bill and tip the staff, according to the Guardian.

"If me having a gin and tonic with my friends, flirting with handsome men, hanging out with brilliant women is what offends these people so much, I am going to do it more - not less," he told the BBC. "That is what makes London so great, that is what makes this the best city in the world."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2017, with the headline 'Londoners keep calm and carry on'. Print Edition | Subscribe