It was just about 11 pm and I had drifted off to sleep knowing I had to rise early for my flight back to America when suddenly I was awakened by the buzzing of my cell phone. With a bit of nervous hesitation, I peered at the caller ID and saw that it was my son. At that moment, all I could think was something must be wrong. Fear was creeping up, strangling my thought process while my mind raced through a thousand different disastrous scenarios.
Not wanting to sound panicked, I took a deep breath. However, before I could blurt out, “Please tell me you’re not hurt”, I heard my son’s trembling voice on the other side of the line say, “Mom, are you and dad OK?”
Trying to process that he was asking if we were OK didn’t seem to make any sense. What could he possibly mean by was I OK? Why wouldn’t I be OK? Unless there was an emergency, my son knew to avoid phoning me and racking up hefty international phone charges, but instead to use FB messenger, FaceTime, and WhatsApp to contact me while I was not in the U.S.
“Yes, dad and I are OK, but why on earth are you calling? Are you sure everything’s OK with you?”
“Nothing’s wrong here mom, but you’re in London and there was a terror attack and people are dead”.
If my son’s call wasn’t enough to completely wake me, news that a terror attack had just taken place certainly jolted me to conscience. “Terror attack? What are you talking about?”
“Mom, a truck ran people over on the London Bridge and then there were stabbings at the Borough Market. I was scared that something happened because you said you were going to be at the Borough Market and I wanted to warn you”.
That’s when I understood my son’s nervousness. I had given my son a copy of my itinerary, along with other pertinent information on how to reach me during my stay in London and sure enough, Saturday’s list of stops included the Borough Market. That’s when it also hit me how timing is everything.
Just a few hours earlier, I was indeed in the same place that evil had just descended. Just a few hours made the difference between witnessing the attack (or worse) and being safe in my hotel room. The lively and popular Borough Market I had enjoyed seeing, filled with tourists and locals enjoying a Saturday out, was now a place of death and sorrow. The London Bridge that I had just walked across and admired the views of the Tower Bridge, now haunted me with the “what if it had happened when I was on the bridge?”.
As I calmed my son down and assured him that we were OK and were safe in our hotel room, I realized just how much it must have frightened him to find out there was a terror attack where we were planning to be. At that moment, my mature, independent 18-year old college bound son, suddenly realized that he wasn’t as independent as he thought he was. He realized just how fragile life can be and how quickly things can change.
I’ve spent my life worrying about my children’s safety, but I had never thought about the fact they worry about my safety. When I was worried that my son wasn’t paying any attention to my pre-travel instructions, giving me the “eye rolling” and the “yeah, yeah, yeah, I got it mom”, he actually was. I handed him the envelope with our travel information and told him that I would check in daily. He knew that he had to check in with me as well and let me know if he was going to do anything out of the ordinary.
Never did I expect him to contact me that night as terror tore through London on what was just supposed to be an ordinary Saturday night. But out of an unordinary set of events, his unexpected call was comforting. Even though I know my son cares about me, the call reassured me that I am still an important part of his life. My safety to him is just as important has his safety is to me.
We may never rid our world of evil and terrorism. But what terrorism tries to destroy, our peace and security, the reverse effect happens. When terrorism strikes, the bonds between family, friends, and strangers become stronger. Compassion and caring rise to the surface and extraordinary acts of kindness take place. And occasionally, a mother is awakened by her concerned son and life shows us what is really important – Love.