I wrote - but never published - this after unknowingly stumbling upon the Bataclan in Paris. Ever since that horrible evening, it has felt grimly inevitable that the lack of attacks in London was luck, rather than security.
We were in Barcelona on Saturday night, at a music festival. My partner told me there’d been an attack in London, but neither of us really wanted to know, so we ignored the news until later, once we’d tired of things. Once we allowed ourselves to take in the sheer horror of what had happened in London Bridge we were both numb.
As the grim reality of what had happened was revealed, the details struck us both. We could have been those people. It came out that El Pastor, our favourite taco place in London, was invaded by one of the attackers. Customers and staff fought him out then locked themselves in. He managed to stab someone in the restaurant.
Events like this gnaw at you. You don’t ruminate over them directly, but your subconscious seems to internalise them, storing them for a later state of alertness.
A firecracker went off on Monday when we were in Valencia. A series of short popping sounds followed by an explosion. Everyone stopped and looked at each other, terrified. Alex and I ran for our lives into the nearest stores. When it appeared it was over, we walked hurriedly away from the noise. We wouldn’t have reacted like this before.
You never question your security when you’re from a place like New Zealand. Even when the world appears to be tearing itself apart, this is mostly a meaningless curiosity to you. Despite cynical politicians trying to claim that New Zealand is some sort of terrorist target, we residents of remote islands all know, innately, that we are too small, too far away and too benign and irrelevant to be any sort of real prize for people looking to make their point through public violence.
As a result of this disconnection, when you are finally thrust into a situation where there is a real, possible, and annoyingly existential threat to your safety it is a wholly unnerving situation.
We were in Paris just after Christmas  and inadvertently stumbled across the site of the Le Bataclan massacre. We weren’t hunting for it, merely walking through the areas of Paris we seem to always end up in. This was what really got me.
Suddenly here, in the middle of an aimless walk, in an area that now feels familiar, was the site of unspeakable carnage and cruelty. Reason and rational justification felt very, very remote at this point.
Being from New Zealand (and not from Christchurch), almost everything happens to other people. There is a strange sense of disconnection from suffering. Living in London now, however, tragic events like this feel real in a way that nothing else has ever been for me. I can viscerally imagine the horror of what the poor victims of Paris on that benign, Friday night in November endured. The victims of this attack were no different from my girlfriend and me - and our friends. They were just normal, cosmopolitan people, enjoying and experiencing the big, complex cities they choose to reside in.
Around the site of the massacre itself, it was touching and haunting to see the amount of people there and the tributes laid. It was reassuring to see a normal Parisian scene: a few scattered police/gendarmes, lots of people trying to understand the tributes and the events, and the obligatory touts. It was a small but well-formed example of the multifaceted nature of European city life, quickly reestablished by frightened people who have no choice but to keep living the way they know.
This is the point of course. Attacks like this on places where people live are the aim of terror, designed to disrupt and anger the lives of people who have no cause with the attacker. I will admit, after visiting the site of the Bataclan attack, I am somewhat more fearful, warier. I know it must be ignored though, as to let the threat of such unpredictable acts have an influence on your life is irrational, as by nature you can’t predict and prepare as an individual. You just have to carry on.