It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.


Charles Dickens, one of the best writers of all time or any time in my opinion, often astonishes me at how relevant his words are at reflecting our current circumstances. It’s been a long time since I’ve read A Tale of Two Cities, but reading this passage again this morning I think it seems like I’d find so much more meaning — and relevance — in its pages now if I took it up.

This isn’t a book review or a political post. This is a paean to the people of London who have, once again, shown such resilience and strength of character in their response to yet another attack on their city.

Not just first responders, but ordinary people and public servants ran toward the tragedy and worked to save the lives of those injured. While I abhor the ubiquitous photos of tragedy in progress as a horrific invasion of privacy, they show the world how Londoners threw aside their own tasks and errands to kneel on the street and offer help.

Sadly, the British have had a lot of practice with attacks of this kind, or similar. Maybe that’s one reason they are able to keep their presence of mind and respond quickly and in concert. Culture also plays a role, of course. Whatever the myriad reasons, they have once again set an extraordinary example for the rest of us.

We’ve seen that kind of heroism in the US and around the world after the attacks on September 11, 2001 and countless other tragedies over the millennia. Doesn’t that give us hope that no matter what else may be plaguing our daily existence, when we see our fellow men and women struck by tragedy, our humanity still kicks in and we run to help?

While sometimes it may feel like we’re living in the worst of times, the past 24 hours have renewed my belief that there will still be a season of Light.

The Palace of Westminster at night seen from the south bank of the River Thames. Photo by David Iliff. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0