As the world reacted with outrage at the news footage of the two men who butchered that 25 year old soldier to death in broad daylight on the streets of London on Wednesday, the horror felt nationally turned to shock locally when we learnt that the soldier was from this town, indeed this very estate, on which we live.
Once Drummer Lee Rigby’s name was released, the realisation spread like wildfire.
Our town was immediately catapulted into the centre of the media eye as various news crews descended upon it. Satellite news vans currently line the street where my wife’s parents live. The playschool which my son attends has been closed today as the community centre that hosts it is acting as the focal point for the local residents to come together in mutual support and solace. At the sports centre a book of condolence has been opened for people to sign and leave sympathetic messages. British and English flags are beginning to be displayed from windows and car aerials.
I didn’t know Lee personally, but I know people who did. This is a typical neighbourhood where everyone is just one place away from knowing everyone else.
Nationally there has been reports of sporadic attacks on mosques, with demonstrations being mooted for the coming days.
But here in Lee’s hometown the first response was to gather together, offering prayers and lighting candles for Lee and in support of his family. His sister attended the vigil, and we were told that his family appreciated the community coming together on behalf of them and their son.
Emotions are understandably high at the moment, but the ideal that we strive to reach for must surely be one of peace. Peace starts with the individual. And the individual starts with inner peace.
In this town, this multicultural town, that has been rocked by this senseless, brutal murder, it is a thought we need to cling to as the initial shock wears off and anger gathers momentum.
I will leave you with two quotes from two individuals who were both proponents of the path of peace, but neither of them passively so.
“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” – Gandhi
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King
These are sentiments that we should echo in what will be some difficult times ahead.
Our focus should be on Lee, his family, each other.