7/7/2005: London’s Terrorist Attacks
July 7, 2005 8 Comments
The city is at a virtual standstill and is eerily calm in light of the multiple bombings this morning. I was on the way into the city centre by bus when we were ordered to disembark and told that there had been an explosion on a similar double-decker bus and several on the underground.
Sirens have been wailing all day and the police presence is overwhelming. Word is that there have been at least 45 fatalities and hundreds more injured – this after the euphoria that gripped Londoners after yesterday’s new that the city had won the right to host the 2012 Olympic Games. The sidewalks are littered with a slow moving crowd trying to get home on foot since there is no public transport available. Once in a while I am coming across a person sobbing but otherwise calm reigns.
I have the sense of a place with a very intact cultural memory of violence, whether from World War 2 or from the IRA campaigns I cannot tell. However, I sense that the public mood will become less calm tomorrow after the initial shock has worn off.
It is strange the effect politicised violence has on people. If this had been a particularly bad train or bus crash that left a similar number dead, the institutional reaction – whether by the media or the state – would be far more muted. But now there is the urgency of a political community attacked. Everyone here feels targeted. Everyone I have spoken to has commented about their distance from the bombing sites, the extent to which their daily routine might have exposed them to a violent death had they not done a little something differently at the last instant.
Violence creates a public intimacy, a coming together and those responsible for waging it draw an ire multiplied by its group character. Everyone I have spoken to, and I have spent much of the day chattering away, has been saddened by the loss of life and limb but I have also detected an unmistakable euphoria. This latter feeling is natural. It is the knowledge that you are in the middle of great events, no matter how terrible they are. An ordinary day had been made extraordinary by the violence of the bombs and their intention. For the day, you are not one individual in a featureless mass of millions, but rather a part of one heaving, injured, self conscious organism.
Having said all that, I am sad that ordinary folks had to die today. Whenever I think about the scale and importance of the lives of people I love, and then consider those who were killed today, I am forced to conclude that a single human life is far more important than the ideas and hatreds that lead to such violence.