What St. Charles County Could Learn from the British Response to Terror Attacks

By Greg Prestemon, CEO 

Unfortunately, terrorism has started to acquire a sense of routine. Every six months or so, some lunatic decides to drive a truck onto a sidewalk full of people, or detonate a bomb at a crowded event.

What we often don’t see—beyond a couple of “man on the street”-style interviews—is how regular people react to terror and tragedy. I just returned from travel in Ireland and the United Kingdom, including London. During our visit, I saw how communities and people responded to the recent terrorist acts. Just like in the United States, police and first responders were the first on the scene. There were police officers literally everywhere, risking their lives despite the uncertainty and danger.

But it wasn’t the police response that stood out the most.

What struck me most was how resilient these communities and people were. Literally, the day after the attacks people were back in bars and shops, using colorful language to describe what these terrorists could go do to themselves.

No one cowered.

Businesses didn’t close their doors.

People didn’t back down.

More than one person told me, in very specific terms, how mistaken these terrorists were if they thought they could alter the way of life for the Irish and British. The closest I can come to describing the sentiment is the Latin phrase “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.”

(Google it. I don’t speak or typically use Latin, but it captures the sentiment my wife and I heard and saw during our visit.)

What I saw during our visit was an ability to put adversity within a manageable sense of context.

Being able to contextualize adversity isn’t important because it’s a noble thing to do.

It’s important because adversity can only be overcome if it’s placed within its proper context.

No one said this to my wife and me specifically, but we came away with a real sense that the British were able to continue life with a sense of normalcy because, for as much tragedy as they caused, a couple of maniacs with knives and homemade bombs pale in comparison to Hitler destroying London.

Of course, terrorism isn’t the only challenge communities face. In fact, statistically speaking, terrorist acts are relatively rare.

Other challenges aren’t so rare.

Communities everywhere face uncertain economic futures. For example, no one really knows how much technology will really change the economy. If you listen to some voices, we are just months away from being enslaved by robots or Chinese colonists.

It’s easy to panic if you lack the context that says we’ve seen and conquered adversity before, and we can do it again. Right now, the United States has some of the lowest peacetime unemployment the country has ever experienced—yet you often wouldn’t know it from listening to politicians and the media.

If you listen to some voices, you would think civilization itself is on the verge of collapse.

But it isn’t time to panic.

Far from it.

Instead, we should learn from our friends across the Atlantic—which is one reason I’m happy the St. Louis region is collaborating with Galway, Ireland, on The Yield Lab, an accelerator focused on AgTech. We’re pretty tough people in this region, but it never hurts to have a tough brother to learn from.

Everyone—including whole communities—gets knocked down.

That just happens.

Getting back up is what truly matters.

And you’ll get back up a lot quicker once you realize you’ve been hit by much tougher people before (or faced far bigger challenges), and you still managed to come out stronger and better.