Keeping calm and getting on after recent attacks

by Thomas Panker
Stripes Europe

In late March I made plans to drive up to Belgium for a few days then take a ferry from Dunkirk, France to Dover, U.K. before heading up to London as an improvised getaway.

While in Bruges, news broke of the tragic events that happened outside of Parliament, which left citizens of ten nations dead or critically injured. The type of lone wolf terrorist attack we know can happen anywhere … any time.

But I never waivered on continuing my trip across the English Channel. I wanted to take that boat ride, feel a mighty breeze on my face as I gaze across endless spindrifts, and see the chalky white cliffs of Dover.

As I drove up to the second customs booth in port, I identified the attendant’s British accent, so I mentioned what a shame that situation was. He respectfully acknowledged, we exchanged pleasantries as he figured out where to stamp my passport, and I moved forward in the queue.

What I found in London was that same spirit embodied throughout the streets of Westminster and SOHO the day after that cowardly act. Storefronts, museums and pavement were teeming with energy. Good energy. Normality. It was exactly what we need to do these days, as proffered by a little known public service announcement from decades ago.

Keep Calm and Carry On was a motivational poster produced in 1939 by the British government in preparation for World War II. The campaign was intended to boost public morale threatened by widely anticipated air attacks. Although millions of copies were printed back then, the poster was rarely displayed. In 2000, the poster was re-issued by a number of private companies, and today embodies the exemplary fortitude residents and tourists alike practiced during my visit.

Folks packed around old wooden tables and stood shoulder to shoulder outside the corner pubs. A scene that is somewhat unique to their culture and which I am quite fond of. You see it and feel as if you can talk to anyone – because you can. I shared a pint with some locals and touched on the previous day’s events, our recent elections, Brexit and how Colorado hops made it into the free-house IPA being poured by this fine establishment.

This week, St. Petersburg, Russia also experienced mass casualties as a result of terrorism, and world leaders along with their affected citizens again paid tribute to the victims.

Remaining calm in the face of adversity has effectively rendered itself into a British character trait; perhaps even our pop-culture. In today’s world, it can also be considered an effective antidote to help heal us in times when our resilient souls are put to the test.


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