London thoughts

My friends (both real-life and virtual are safe) are safe, but there’s a lot of people who can’t say the same 🙁

For over a year I worked in an office opposite the entrance to Liverpool Street Station, so the images on TV were doubly shocking to me – they seemed so much more real than the footage from the World Trade Centre, just because the places were so familiar to me. I’m sure there are many NZers who have done the London OE thing who are feeling that same sense of connection, and are grieving with the city they know so well.

But having lived in London, there is a feeling of hope mixed with my grief. I know that London will recover from this blow – it will not hurt it in the same deep-seated way that the World Trade Centre hurt New York. And not just because of the difference of scale, but because terrorism was such a shock to New York and the USA – they, like most of us, felt that terrorism was something that happened to other countries, so when it did hit them, it was completely out of the blue (tasteless pun entirely unintentional). Londoners, on the other hand, have lived with terrorism for years. The blitz (not terrorism, I know, but when bombs are going off around you, the difference between “legitimate” war and terrorism is not an issue) was still a vivid memory for many when the IRA began their 30-year bombing campaign, and the ink on that peace agreement is barely dry. The IRA was still a threat when I was in London (in fact, Canary Wharf had just been bombed when I moved there from further north), and the thing that amazed me was the lack of fear – whether it was because they’d lived in fear for so long that they’d become immune, or because of a concious decision to fight the terrorists in the only real way anyone can (by not letting their actions change your life), Londoners seemed to treat bomb threats (and even actual bombings) as just another inconvenience, to be dealt with and then forgotten. There was always vigilence, of course, but not fear. And it wasn’t long before I started to act the same way (thus totally shocking my mother when I casually mentioned on the phone one day that I’d been late for work that morning because of a bomb scare at our Tube station – I’d only been in London for 6 months and already I’d forgotten that bomb scares weren’t a normal part of life back home in NZ – I was more concerned that I might lose some pay for being late!).

Which is why I was so cheered when I saw the news yesterday morning and heard that only 8 hours after the bombing, London was struggling back to normality – the buses and most trains were running again, people were sitting in pubs drinking as they would at the end of any ordinary working day, sending a strong message to the terrorists that they hadn’t won, they hadn’t broken London’s spirit. And I think that’s the best thing the rest of us can do too – spare a thought for those hurt or killed, and for their friends and families, and then just get on with our lives. Yes, be vigilant, but don’t go over the top and let it change the way you live. Keep taking public transport, don’t cancel your holiday plans, keep planning that trip to London, or New York, or Madrid, or whereever, and above all, don’t be scared. Terrorism is all about controlling us by instilling fear. If we don’t fear, then they can never win.


Ok, deep philosophical thoughts over – promise I’ll go back to Bookcrossing trivia from now on.

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