Opinion

Manchester attack: We must find a way to make this right

"The worst that parents should have to worry about when their children go to pop concerts is whether they get overexcited or a boy tries to kiss them."

On the morning of May 23 my 10-year-old son had some problems with his bike.

The pedal crank had worked itself a little loose and it kept missing as he moved. It wasn’t serious but he was annoyed, increasingly. He had his cycling proficiency test in the afternoon and was determined nothing would stop him.

He was also a touch confused as I alternately kept welling up and then dolefully smiling as I tightened the mechanism. I told him to keep going on the road to school. It would be all right. I couldn’t tell him how happy and lucky I felt in that moment that this was his only concern.

Every parent knows the heart-stopping moment when a toddler wanders off in a busy shop

I hadn’t told him about the massacre in Manchester the night before. I decided not to. He’d learn soon enough. We could talk about a religiously warped suicide death cult after school.

In those first hours after the attack, parents took to Twitter sending photos of children they hadn’t been able to get hold of yet. Their desperate messages were heartbreaking.

Police officers near the scene after the terrorist attack at Manchester Arena.

Every parent knows the heart-stopping moment when a toddler wanders off in a busy shop, for even a few seconds – that time when they’re out of sight and you just don’t know where they’ve gone. And then the relief that floods back when they amble towards you again, or a kind stranger has realised they’ve gone adventuring and their parent is going out of their mind.

That never leaves.

To imagine the sensations that must engulf when those children, a little older, maybe at their first gig alone – a HUGE step for parent and child – can’t be contacted, and the fear that they may be gone, is crippling.

The worst that parents should have to worry about when their children go to pop concerts is whether they get overexcited or a boy tries to kiss them.

There is no rationalising what happened. Each time one act of horrific barbarity is committed we ask how many more times must it happen? This feels of a different level. Children were targeted, directly. It resonates in waves with so many of us. A line was crossed. They murdered children. Is there nothing these people won’t do?

And still there is no answer. There is a sense that getting on with things is the right way to ‘stop them winning’. And to a degree, it is.

This feels of a different level. Children were targeted, directly

But still no answer on how to stop them entirely. And we must find it. We must not say we will carry on, yet not find ways to arrest the dark. Beyond the work of the Prevent strategy, surely we can harness the knowledge of many to use the technology that helps promote the messages and swap information, that recruits and warps, to be used to scan more and discover more. On my computer, if I buy a sofa I’m bombarded with ads for other sofas for days. Can it be so hard to turn that into a way that tracks the Islamist jihadis, whether on the dark web or not?

A 22-year-old computer whizz surf dude sitting in his bedroom was able to stop the malware computer virus that threatened global meltdown.

Couldn’t Facebook and other global-reach companies redirect some of their nation state-size profits to hiring an army of similar surf dudes to watch and listen and disable the apparatus of communication?

Life throws all sorts of cruel curveballs at kids that they don’t deserve – whether it’s a serious illness or abuse or any number of things that we think about and get angry that we can’t fix.

We must find a way to make this one right.

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