I’ve never been to London, but I’ve experienced it many times. From sitting in on royal meetings in Buckingham Palace to passing through the walls of King’s Cross Station at Platform 9 ¾, London has come alive in my imagination through some of my favorite books and movies.
I’ve always dreamed about actually going there in real life, too, which is why I’d been counting down the days until my upcoming weekend in London—counting down the moments until I’d finally get to meet the city that’s always felt like an old friend.
I was six days away from my trip when the news of the latest terror attack appeared on my phone. It happened on the London Bridge at night, a place I would surely find myself on my first visit. It wasn’t long before people were asking me if I was still planning on going. They asked me if I was nervous. I told them that I was, but also that I’ve never been more certain in my life that London is exactly where I want to be.
The London I’ll visit, the one that’s still on edge, the one that’s still in mourning, might not be the same one I’ve read about in books, but there’s something strikingly familiar about it anyway. On the day of the Boston Marathon in 2013, I was working a shift at my college dorm when five blocks away two bombs exploded, killing three people and wounding 264. For the next week, I experienced a Boston that was on edge and in mourning. When walking through the Boston Common, instead of picnic blankets and families, I saw tanks and news trucks.
It was a week of pure anxiety. There’s no denying that I felt scared—terrorized—but at the same time, Boston had never seemed more beautiful. Friends hugged each other a little bit tighter and strangers on the street met one another with kind and solemn eyes. Money was already being raised for the victims; the healing had begun.
In London, I won’t be surprised at all if I encounter that exact same feeling.
Terrorists do what they do to divide us, to draw chasms between cultures and make us think that our worlds can’t co-exist, but they’re wrong. When we travel anyway, when we continue to see the world and continue to seek out ideas that challenge our own, that’s how we prove it to them.
Personally, I’ve been dreaming of London far too long to let the bad guys stop me.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 10 Best Things to Do in London
- How to See Sprawling London in Just a Weekend
- London vs. New York: Which City Should I Visit?