We Will Never Forget Lee Rigby

2I clearly remember my commute home from work on the 22nd of May 2013.  Checking for news on my smartphone, I read in horror as the gruesome and cowardly murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby began making headlines. My throat tightened as further details emerged – details confirming this was not some random encounter which had ended fatally. This was a planned act of Islamic Terrorism.

At the time, I was unaware Drummer Rigby was from my home city of Manchester, but knowing this gruesome act had played out on the instantly recognisable streets of London was enough to shake me up in a way that distant atrocities can’t always achieve for whatever reason. It shouldn’t matter – but knowing this could happen on an English street in broad daylight suddenly provided a new level of reality for Jihadism that I couldn’t quite handle emotionally. It was too close to home.

I came through my front door and instantly began sobbing for this person I’d never even met or knew existed moments ago, all fury and helplessness. The injustice of it. The pointlessness of it.

Nearly two years later and I’m sat in Euston train station in London, waiting for my 18:37 service back to Manchester. I’d been in the capital for The Secularist of The Year Awards where Charlie Hebdo magazine took the main prize. I remember having similar feelings to the above when seeing footage of gunmen running through Paris streets yelling ‘Allahu Akbar’. The problem is home.

Sat waiting for my train – I check the news on my smartphone as is habit to read that a permanent memorial for Lee Rigby had been unveiled in Middleton earlier in the day – on what must have been a very proud and emotional occasion for his friends and family.

Suddenly memorials made sense to me in a way they never had before. ‘This is what decent societies do’ I thought to myself. We’ll never forget what happened and we’ll ensure Lee Rigby’s legacy endures. We won’t allow those who wish to enforce their theocracy via violence and fear make us forget who we are, or forget those who died standing for everything they hate.

I start welling up again – and tell myself to get a grip.  I’m suddenly very proud of my country.

I visited the memorial gardens in Middleton this morning to leave some flowers and pay my respects. The memorial is beautiful. We’ll never forget Lee Rigby, and everything he stood for.

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  • It’s almost surreal isn’t it. I sometimes play a little mental simulation to gain a bit of perspective on events like these. Imagine being able to read a newspaper of the future. It’s 1995 and you’re at school. Someone hands you the 22nd May 2013 front page – man beheaded on London street in broad daylight – you couldn’t bring yourself to believe it!

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