What Happens When You Offer Shelter To Terror Attack Victims

Photo: Meg O'Donnell
It’s been difficult to find much to be positive or hopeful about in recent weeks. While Brits are doing their best to keep up morale on social media, using hashtags like #BritishThreatLevels and #ThingsThatLeaveBritainReeling, there’s no denying that many of us are anxious following the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London.
The uncertainty about our own safety and the safety of our loved ones, combined with a constant stream of sombre and violent news coverage, makes it tough to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
However, reading stories about the kindness of others can offer a glimmer of hope and positivity in even the darkest times, which explains why we’re so heartened to read about people offering shelter to those caught up in terror attacks.
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Hashtags such as #RoomForManchester trended on Twitter and Facebook following the Manchester Arena attack on 22nd May, with hotels and taxi drivers also offering up their services for free. And volunteers can now offer shelter, food, transport, water and more via a new Facebook feature, which some even used to donate blood following the attack on and around London Bridge on Saturday.
But what actually happens once you’ve volunteered to house strangers who have been caught up in or left stranded because of terror attacks? Or wars and natural disasters, for that matter? Well, a number of such kindhearted souls have shared their experiences on Reddit. They offered their help following incidents including Saturday's London attack, the Boston marathon bombings and 9/11. Here's what they had to say.

London attack

aTinofRicePudding: "I live in London. Last night was interesting. I was out at a friend’s birthday when we all started getting calls and texts like, ‘r u ok??!’. Decided to head home, but Uber was down for the count (no cars available, anywhere, for hours). I was puzzling my way through public transport options and ran into a cold, lost friend wasting the last dregs of her phone battery trying to get an Uber. So, she came with me. Slowly other friends who’d been at the same party began to assemble at my house, because it was close by, and what else were they gonna do – walk? Not in those shoes.
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“We stayed up late making jokes in poor taste and talking about human nature, and the value of human life, among other things. There were people in the guest bed, the blow up bed, the couch and one in my bed. This morning I cooked a lot of eggs and mushrooms and made many cups of tea. Then I spent the rest of the morning dropping the last stragglers off to their respective destinations before going to the gym. It was kind of just an impromptu, unusual sleepover.”

Munich shooting (2016)

stephaniealice: “This is kind of related but from the other side of things. I was offered a place to stay during an incident. Last July there was a shooting at a mall in Munich, Germany while I was visiting there. My friends and I were having a beer at the Hofbrau House when suddenly there was a mass panic. We were told to run, so we did. I heard loud crashing behind me and kept running. I got separated from my friends. A woman waved me and a bunch of others in to the atrium of an apartment building. We waited there for a while until we saw police and heard more commotion.
“I don’t speak German, I had only been in the city for a day, my phone had very little battery, and I was alone. Needless to say I was scared out of my mind. I was comforted by another woman who was also alone. She was German and only knew a few words in English. We waited together in the atrium comforting each other even though all we could really say was ‘ok’ over and over. Finally a young man came down to the atrium and, first in German then in English, invited us and several others upstairs.
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“It was an apartment of college-age guys and they took in around 20 strangers that night because the city was on lockdown. They offered us food and water and a place to be safe. Some people were injured and they broke out all of the first aid supplies they had and everyone pitched in to help. Thankfully many people there spoke English, but the people they took in were from all over the world. We put on the news and someone translated for me because we still had very little idea what had happened. They helped me contact my group and my parents back home.
“I will never forget those kind people that helped me. We ended up there for several hours until the city was declared safe. They helped me reunite with my friends and get back to where we were staying. I am forever grateful to them for making a horrible night just a little bit better.”

Boston marathon bombings (2013)

PickleOh: “I was in Boston when the marathon bombings occurred. I was living in a big house with a good amount of people around three blocks away from the finish line. Most of the people in the house were on the roof when the bombs went off. We immediately went downstairs and saw a bunch of terrified people running away from the finish line area. We tried to corral anyone who was looking for a place to seek refuge, and ended up getting a few families, some with kids (probably about 20 in all).
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“The adults mostly watched the TV in our living room, while we set up another TV in different room with video games and snacks so the kids could play. The people were very respectful of our house and grateful that we opened the doors to strangers, and the kids were definitely less rattled and seemingly less traumatised than they could’ve been. I’m glad we got to help out in the little way we did.”

Typhoon Haiyan (2013)

turtletyler: “In the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, I volunteered at the military airbase where we brought and distributed relief goods and donations. I joined a group that ferried refugees in and around the city to their relatives and friends who’d take them in. By nightfall that first day I was dead tired and volunteered to drive for just one more family before heading home – a single mom with five teens who’d already spent days at the airport. I was supposed to bring them to a local women’s shelter, but we somehow bonded in that short car ride and I couldn’t bear to just dump them at a place totally unfamiliar to them and looking the way they did. I was also thinking, ‘what if the same thing happened to my family?’ So I spoke to the mom and said, ‘This isn’t part of what we do but if you’d let me, I’d like to bring you to our home where all of you can take a hot bath, wash and dry your clothes, go online and let your family and friends you’re ok...’ and that is exactly what I did. They are back to their normal, everyday lives now and to this day, we are friends.”
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9/11

Cauliflowered: "I’m from a little Canadian town called Gander, which is in Newfoundland. During 9/11, the US had shut down their airspace which left a lot of planes on transatlantic routes stranded. Gander is an airport town that once had a lot of significance during World War II for transatlantic military flights, but these days the glory is long gone.
“So imagine our surprise when the ‘plane people’ came. Over 7,000 of them, to be specific. They flooded into our tiny airport after their planes landed in our town of 10,000 - nearly doubling the population. It was surreal.
“Half of the town went to the airport and stood on the other side of the fence, just looking at all of these planes land and park on the runway one after the other. And in those planes sat some very scared and worried people. They weren’t allowed off of their planes at this point so I imagine they were looking out their windows at us, too.
“When they were allowed to leave their planes, we were ready. The entire town shut down ― and I mean it came to an absolute halt. Every school, every church, every gymnasium, every recreation centre and arena converted into a shelter to house our stranded visitors. And that wasn’t nearly enough, so they opened their homes for them too. They crammed people on every spare bed and every couch. Clothes and food were provided as it was suspected that they would be stuck there for a while.
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“The school bus drivers were on strike and they abandoned their picket lines and hopped in their buses to help move this massive amount of people to places where they could be cared for.
“It ended up being a bit of fun, even during such a stressful and uncertain time. After a week the planes started leaving again, and the population quickly shrunk back down to its normal, quiet size. I have fond memories of those days and I’m so proud of my little town.”
Cassi_3410: "Started a new job just before the 9/11 attacks in NYC. One of my new co-workers, also a new hire, was going to come home with me and I told her I would drive her home once we got to my car. We saw the 2nd plane, but still weren’t comprehending what had happened. Her husband told her to make her way up town and he would come get her so we parted ways. I was getting on a ferry when the first tower came down. Little did I know, she followed fleeing crowds onto the same boat to avoid the collapse.
“As I was picking up my kids from their school, she came bursting in. She remembered me saying my kids went to school near the water, kept asking random strangers for directions, and found the school! Anyhow, she ended up spending the night. Thankfully, we are the same size so she was able to shower and change and make herself at home. We stayed up all night watching the news, crying, hugging, and crying some more. That night bound us for life.
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“We’re not only best friends to this day, we’re sisters. Her family is mine, and my family is hers. Working together, we probably would have become friends anyway, but our colleagues and even random strangers are amazed at how close we are.”

Yugoslav wars (1991-2001)

Lono37: “Not exactly a terrorist attack, but my brother and his (now-ex) wife took in a Croatian Muslim refugee family (husband, wife, and two young kids) in the late 1990s during the war with Serbia. Their town had been destroyed by the bombing/fighting, and they had fled with little more than a couple sets of clothes.
“He hosted them for over a year at his house near Denver and said it was the most amazing and gratifying experience of his life. He formed a close bond with this family, which was something he never anticipated would happen. The husband and wife eventually got jobs and their own place—and became US citizens—but to this day they still come by regularly, invite him to dinner at least every couple of months, and treat him like a family member.”
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