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Dear worried Americans (and Canadians) - helen-louise
Dear worried Americans (and Canadians)
I can't pretend to speak for all Londoners, but for the ones I do speak for...

I imagine it's worse for you because of 9/11 flashbacks, but we're ok. Seriously. London has been dealing with bombs since the Blitz in WWII. We had the IRA blowing up parts of London and SE England for 25 years, forgodsake. Even despite their ceasefire, we still have reinforced post boxes and litter bins on the streets, and no litter bins on public transport. (This was the thing that amazed me most about recent travels in the US - the authorities claiming they were afraid of attack, yet there were bins everywhere - even in the airports!)

I grew up halfway between Sandhurst Military Academy (where Prince Harry is going) and Aldershot, the home of the British Army. We had a bomb scare every other week, and about 1/4 of them turned out to be real bombs. Evacuating Marks & Spencer to go and sit in McDonalds for half an hour until we got the all-clear was just what we did. You just pay attention to any unattended bags or packages, and get on with it.

I remember the Selfridges bomb, the bomb on the rail line between Brookwood and Woking, the Canary Wharf bomb, the bus that blew up along the Strand... all ones that people I know were caught up in. Only a few years ago, a lone nut decided to nailbomb parts of London associated with ethnic minorities and queers - the bomb blowing up the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho affected me deeply, not least of all because Richard's work is just round the corner from it and one of his co-workers only narrowly escaped injury. But we survived. The pub is still standing, and features a memorial to the people who died - and I urge anyone interested in queer history to go there and see.

We've had terrorists, nuts and loons for longer than I've even been alive. This is just another one of those things. It's tragic for the families of the people killed, but they can't get us all. They didn't manage it in WWII. They won't manage it now.

P.S. I don't often agree with him, but Go Ken!

Current Mood: determined determined

25 comments or Leave a comment
kightp From: kightp Date: 7th July 2005 16:01 (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad you're safe, and that you can handle this with such equanimity, even as I hate the fact that you've had the experiences that allow you to do so.

We're so sheltered here.
baratron From: baratron Date: 7th July 2005 16:48 (UTC) (Link)
I don't think I've been particularly traumatised by living in a city that people have been trying to blow up for 400 years. It's just something you take in your stride. In the same way that you walk tall and confidently when alone on the street at night, you keep your eyes open for any smoke or strange packages or unattended bags. It's terrifying when you're a child, old enough to understand what's happening but young enough to fear imminent death. But by the time you're older, it's just how life is.

People talk about British stoicism and reserve. But a high percentage of people who consider themselves Londoners were born elsewhere - in other parts of Britain, and elsewhere in the world. Living in this city is a choice - there's a reason why Londoners look down on the "provincials" who commute in from other parts of SE England. (Why work in London but live elsewhere, when this is the best city in the world?). Certain behaviours get ingrained in anyone who chooses to live here for some time. While London is anonymous (like I even know what my neighbours look like) and its etiquette seems positively rude to outsiders (starting up a conversation with a stranger on the Tube? absolute no-no!), enough of us have ancestry who lived through the Blitz to know what to do. In an emergency, you pull together and help whoever needs help, whether you know them or not. When the emergency's over, you go back to normal.
thekumquat From: thekumquat Date: 7th July 2005 16:02 (UTC) (Link)
Hear hear!

People have been trying to blow London up since explosives were invented (Gunpowder Plot 1605, etc). It's part of being a world-renowned city.

djm4 From: djm4 Date: 7th July 2005 16:06 (UTC) (Link)
Yes. That. Precisely.
johnckirk From: johnckirk Date: 7th July 2005 16:10 (UTC) (Link)
Yup, I have to agree. My sympathies go to those who were directly affected, but I'm guessing that most people won't even be mentioning this in a month's time. Like you, I remember the Canary Wharf bomb and the Soho nailbomb (both of which I was almost present for, and only missed due to last minute changes of plan), and the main difference for me this time is that I'm now involved in St John Ambulance, so I was trying to contact other people from my division to see whether I was needed (we're now sorting out a better plan for that).
baratron From: baratron Date: 7th July 2005 16:51 (UTC) (Link)
Good on you. A plan that doesn't rely on mobile phones is the best idea - as the network always gets knocked out by the sheer influx of people desperately ringing each other. After all, 9 times out of 10 when I leave Leicester Square tube station, I only get reception on the second attempt!

I wonder if the network providers could get together to suggest that in an emergency, people should text rather than ring - texting uses far less bandwidth. Might be worth suggesting.
lutonianbill From: lutonianbill Date: 7th July 2005 19:00 (UTC) (Link)
Actually, here at T-Mobile they upped the priority for basic voice calls - the emergency services get priority anyway, and the immediacy of a "yes, I'm all right" voice reply is considered far better than a wait for a text back.

I hope people didn't try and hog their call once they got through if they had troubles connecting - the network was busy enough that they asked all STAFF to keep off it, but after a few hours it became clear that the network was coping as well as it ever can in a city with so many tall radiation-blocking buildings - probably better than some other networks that DIDN'T start as "the M25 network"!
clindau From: clindau Date: 7th July 2005 16:43 (UTC) (Link)
I found your post through Pat Kight. I've been to London several times--it's my favorite city. The composure of the populace I've seen on the news is inspiring.


baratron From: baratron Date: 7th July 2005 17:34 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you for the compliment.

The terrorists attacks today make me more determined than ever to carry on with my life as normal and that will include travelling into central London by tube tomorrow, if the system is running. If the terrorists think we are cowering at home, scared witless, their intelligence about the people of this country, and particularly this capital city, is very poor.
Andrea Wharton, London, UK

Am incredibly proud of the emergency services and the way we are all pulling together. Makes me proud to be a Londoner. They will never drive us out - Christian, Jew or Moslem, whoever or whatever we are, we are all Londoners and we will stand together and show these people they cannot destroy us. Peace!
Matt, London

Quotes from news.bbc.co.uk.
epi_lj From: epi_lj Date: 7th July 2005 17:01 (UTC) (Link)
I was greatly surprised by the reaction of another UK friend to my pinging, which was something to the effect of, "It's sad that this happened, but in a few days everything'll be fine." It seemed very flippant, which I wasn't expecting. This posts explains it a lot.
djm4 From: djm4 Date: 7th July 2005 18:33 (UTC) (Link)
I would say 'proportionate' rather than 'flippant', but I can see how it would come across.

Not everyone's taking it calmly, of course, and that's fine. People react in different ways, and a lot of people I know were a lot closer to the explosions than I was.

Of course, if whoever did this has a stockpile of devices, this may happen again tomorrow, or next week. That'd shake us a bit. But, for now, it's not actually a world-changing event for most people in London.

It was also, let's be honest, not on the scale of the destruction of the World Trade Centre, nor does it signal such a horrible change in the rules by which terrorism operated as that did.
lutonianbill From: lutonianbill Date: 7th July 2005 19:17 (UTC) (Link)
Yes, I've seen some friends severely distressed, and I found out earlier than most as a colleague had to cope with a hysterical wife calling just after 9am as she'd been on the first train bombed.
But people seem to be getting faster and faster at communicating "I'm all right" and then just getting on with their lives.

By mid-afternoon we were comparing notes on near-misses - it turns out another colleague also missed the King's Cross fire by the same small amount as I did, to the extent that we must have been in the station at the same time, 10 years before we actually met at work. Most people are already getting on with their lives and will reserve their worry for those that need it. There's no sense of panic here, but I'm still answering messages from people that know I used to live and/or work in London, and still visit often. I'm not that far from being more annoyed at my phone bill for responding to all those enquiries (HOW MUCH does it cost to send 5 text messages to Finland?!?) than the terrorists!
OK, I'm more cynical than most, but I got my worries 99% sorted by lunch-time.
polyfrog From: polyfrog Date: 7th July 2005 17:14 (UTC) (Link)
I agree with you, and feel the same way.

Doesn't stop me from being worried re: whether someone I care about (such as yourself) is one of the people directly affected. I'm very glad you are not.
baratron From: baratron Date: 7th July 2005 17:36 (UTC) (Link)
Of course - I remain worried about the friends whose location I don't know. I greatly appreciated the fact that you took the time (and expense) to ring me to make sure I was ok. I am pleased that this has apparently not affected your resolve to come to London on holiday.

Our city is so amazing people have tried to destroy it many times. But it remains one of the safest cities in the world.
polyfrog From: polyfrog Date: 8th July 2005 20:18 (UTC) (Link)
I am pleased that this has apparently not affected your resolve to come to London on holiday.
I live in a major American city. As you pointed out, we over here are stupidly, criminally lax(trashbins in the subways?!); it's only a matter of time before something like this happens in Chicago. Why should I change my plans? A city is a city, as far as risk goes.

And your city...I miss it whenever I'm not there, which is most of the time.
wolfette From: wolfette Date: 7th July 2005 17:17 (UTC) (Link)
May I link to your post? There are a lot of people who need to read this now.

baratron From: baratron Date: 7th July 2005 17:41 (UTC) (Link)
Of course.

I saw someone suggesting that today was London's 9/11, or that it'll be a day no Londoner will forget. No. It is a tragedy for those who died or were injured and their families - and we will remember them, as we remember the victims of the countless other bombs and the King's Cross station fire and the various rail accidents. But it is not a tragedy for London. The city and its people have survived many things far worse than this. Give us a week, and we'll be back to business as normal.
antonia_tiger From: antonia_tiger Date: 7th July 2005 19:34 (UTC) (Link)
The London Scale of death and devastaion includes Boudicca, the Blitz, and ballistic missiles.

History suggests that bombing London, like starting a land war in Asia, is a sure indicator of success, for the other side.

wuzzie From: wuzzie Date: 8th July 2005 02:47 (UTC) (Link)
Not forgetting, of course, the regular plagues decimating the population, or fires destroying whole swathes of the city, after which we always picked ourselves up, and rebuilt our houses with the traditional materials of straw and tinder-dry firewood ;)
firecat From: firecat Date: 7th July 2005 17:46 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for posting this.
kalmn From: kalmn Date: 7th July 2005 18:15 (UTC) (Link)
i have mostly just been worried about the people that i know over there. so far, it seems like everyone i know is all right. i am so very glad that you and richard are okay-- you were among the first i thought of.
From: hatter Date: 7th July 2005 21:24 (UTC) (Link)
Well said. There may have been a lot of luck involved, but in a city of 5M people, and with one of these every few years, the odds of getting hurt by it, let alone killed, are miniscule, the chances of knowing someone who was, still very small.

Life mostly goes on.

the hatter
wuzzie From: wuzzie Date: 8th July 2005 02:43 (UTC) (Link)
After 9/11 Mayor Giuliani urged New Yorkers to carry on as normal: take the kids to the park, go see a show. Anything else would be some kind of victory for the terrorists. Of course, when struck out of the blue by the enormity of what had happened, that was never going to happen.

However, this was not 9/11; it was not even on the same scale as Madrid. 20 years ago, incidents exactly like any one of the attacks today occurred on a regular basis in London - people learned to deal with it, get on with their lives, carry on. It is somewhat unprecedented to have four such attacks simultaneously, and one had to wonder if Londoners have lost that sense of resiliance after a few years of quiet, but apparently not. Again, we get on with our lives, because to act otherwise would be exactly what the terrorists want.

Everyone I saw in London today was just going about their business as well as they could with no tube or bus service (another state not unfamiliar to the locals.) I failed to notice anyone "burning with fear" - maybe I wasn't looking hard enough. Do the maths - out of 10 million people, 700 are injured or worse, in the first terrorist attack to claim casualties in some years. You take shorter odds just crossing the road in London, and 30 years' experience has taught Londoners to put events like this in perspective.

Don't misunderstand me - I'm angry and pissed off that anyone would do a thing like this to innocent people, and on my patch too. My thoughts are with the injured and bereaved (although I don't know anyone who even knows someone directly affected by this - unlike 9/11.) Some peoples' lives have been changed forever, others ended abruptly, for a cause that can never justify the means. But London doesn't need everyone fretting and worrying and hand-wringing, it's just one of those things that happens. The world's sympathy is gratefully received, but tomorrow it's business as usual.
hiddenpaw From: hiddenpaw Date: 8th July 2005 07:21 (UTC) (Link)
I was incredinbly impressed with Kens speach. When he said they would not devide us that was really important.

For all the reasons and the thoghts and the philoserphising and the pollitcal reasoning and the socialoergy I think to me it's boiled down to one sentance for me now:

Don't Be a Hater; Be a Londoner.
flemco From: flemco Date: 8th July 2005 16:25 (UTC) (Link)
Lord, I love you stoic folks.

If only the USA had reacted to 9-11 as you have to this. My country is embarrassing me from the contrast.
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