From the early 80’s to the mid 90’s my Dad was a Royal Marine.
During his career he lost many colleagues and friends to the blasts of the IRA, both whilst peace-keeping in Northern Ireland, and in the numerous attacks that were rife throughout the UK at this time.
When my parents lived in military housing, they were issued with a long-handled mirror, and instructed to sweep it under their car each morning, to be sure that an explosive device hadn’t been planted underneath, overnight.
My Dad was in service until I was eleven, but I never once saw him in his uniform. Marines were never allowed to leave the confines of their base in their issued attire, as doing so would make him a terrorism target. Which would make my Mum, brother, myself, and family home, targets too.
At around aged ten, we went on a family trip into the town centre, and visited Waterstones bookshop, as was our tradition. Upon arriving home, that night, we turned on the news to discover that our bookshop had been gutted by a firebomb that had been hidden in the basement, nestled amongst the travel guides, that we had been browsing just hours earlier.
Despite all of this ghastliness, my family and I knew the truth, which we never had to speak of; That whilst bad things were happening, despite the fear and horror, the loss and the grief – that it was still a tiny minority of individuals causing this pain.
We knew that not all Irish were terrorists. Just as not all bookshops were waiting to explode, and not all cars contained bombs. And most of all, that our lives didn’t stop, or become filled with hate, because of these few exceptions.
America, take note – bombs aren’t new to us. Neither is the strength, generosity, united community, and bravery that the people of Manchester are demonstrating right now, despite this being the saddest, most heartbreaking of times.
We don’t hide, discriminate, hate or attack.
We understand, we love and we live.