Friday, July 08, 2005

The London attacks

I'd been home for a few hours yesterday before I put my finger on what was wrong: Our suburban neighbourhood was utterly silent. We live between two train tracks, and ordinarily the soft rumbling of the Metropolitan line punctuates our evenings. Last night, of course, there were no trains, and there was no stream of pedestrians from the nearby station. I hadn't heard total silence in London since the memorial service after September 11.

I had been anticipating a day like yesterday for nearly four years, playing out different versions in my mind. But when it finally happened, it seemed utterly surreal. It's one thing to watch in horror as another country is attacked -- quite another when the sites of the bombs are names you hear every day, and the shattered bus on the news is the same kind that takes you home.

Rumours spread around our office all morning -- six buses had been blown up, or seven; there'd been a bomb in Greenford; a train had blown up at Golders Green; the terrorists were making a circle around London, and Harrow was feared to be next. (This last claim was helped along when a sick prankster in our building decided it was a perfect time to set off the fire alarm.) But for all the gossip, no one panicked. And I heard not one call for revenge.

I can't help wondering if, from the terrorists' point of view, yesterday looks like a failure. As I write, 37 people are confirmed dead. For those who believe that each human life has value, that is a horrible toll. But for those who view each death as a mark on a scorecard, it can't be that impressive; the attacks were clearly designed to kill hundreds if not thousands. The terrorists didn't even manage to stop the transport system for very long -- this morning the Met Line trains are once again going past our kitchen window. And they certainly haven't broken Britons' spirit, or caused them to give in to hatred.

I have sometimes wondered how long you have to live in London before you can consider yourself a Londoner. I think I must qualify by now, because I am very proud to be a Londoner today.


At 3:11 pm, Blogger Dave Justus said...

So glad that you are ok.

At 6:33 pm, Blogger Laura Brown said...

Thanks, Dave.

At 11:13 pm, Blogger Chris Brown said...

I read this post at work (Laura usually writes them in the morning after I've gone out). I don't want to sound boastful or anything but I was moved.
Of course, I've lived in the environs of London all my life. But I've seldom felt so conscious that I was a Londoner as I did today.

A train is going by on each line as I type this, and I'm glad.


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