The first thing that I see from today has been how so many Americans want to stand by us while we weep. The thing is, we're not weeping. 216 people were killed on the roads in London last year, Paddington killed almost as many, and injured almost as many as today. The bomb at South Quays in February 1996 was between a half a tonne and a tonne, depending on which source you read, and the ones here were certainly smaller than that. The thing is, we're British, and we're used to picking up the pieces, and just carrying on. From the pictures of the bus with no roof, the bomb that caused it was a firecracker to the IRA one in 1996.
What happened today in London is not another September the 11th, the fatality count was much lower, the style was quite different, and the general reaction has been different. If the Tube network is not mostly working when I wake up tomorrow, I'll be extremely disappointed. In a few years time, hardly any of us will remember the date of this (can anyone, off the top of their head remember the date of the Madrid bombings? I can't). We do not need any of the worst side of American culture that showed through in late September and October 2001, that jingoism, the racially motivated attacks, and hopefully we will not get it. Patriotism is a word for wimps.
My (second) cousin (based in NJ and fully American) emailed me to ask if I was OK earlier. I'm slightly incredulous at this, as by the time she emailed, it was clear that the fatality count was about 40, and the injury count was in the high hundreds. On the grand scale of things this really is a tiny attack. Wikipedia's entry on London reckons that there's a resident population of around 7m people, not to mention the many who commute in to work there during the day. Now, earlier, it didn't seem like it, and I could have been very screwed, though I'd have to have been running very late for it to have been likely to get me.
As to being stuck underground, I've once been stuck in the tunnel between Bethnal Green and Liverpool St for 40 minutes, on a day that was much worse, weather-wise than today. It happens, it's the Tube.
People talk a lot about terrorism, Bush and Blair spend much of their time posturing about what it is, and what it means, and how they're going to bomb the **** out of yet another country in order to combat it. There is no way I will change one bit of my normal routine and my normal life to combat this rubbish. The cynic in me (and others) wonders what horrendous civil liberties breaching piece of legislation is going to be pushed through that "would have stopped this attack". When that legislation is passed, we must all think of our British way of life which Mr Blair holds so true.
He's right, though, I will not stop how I live my life, or what I believe in just because some people have decided to shut down London Underground (an unfortunately frequent occurence, though it's usually due to the decisions of the LUL Management) by setting off some firecrackers. There are various speculations on what these groups want, and why, and on who is responsible. I don't care. I'm still irritated that people won't move up the train when there is a packed platform, I'm still irritated that it's almost certainly going to be an effort to get to Cambridge on Saturday. These people have made my life harder, and I'm just going to have to be a bit more organised, and leave a bit earlier to make sure I get there on time.
It's disappointing seeing so many bars and shops closed when they would normally have been thriving. It was disappointing also seeing so much of the pavement around Oxford Street and the top end of Tottenham Court Road on my way back from work. I'm far too used to seeing these places being a hive of activity. It seems wrong that these few (really rather small) bombs were enough to fuck up everyone's day so badly. I'm sure we did better when it was the IRA.
Timing-wise, the attack is interesting, like every other Al Quaeda (if it actually exists) or copycat attack. The date is the start of the G8 summit when 1500 Metropolitan Police officers are in Scotland, dressed in full riot gear, to deal with the mostly peaceful demonstrations that turn nasty. This leaves the capital drastically under-protected, but of course, one big bomb is not the right way to go. Instead the Al Quaeda tactic is to set off multiple small ones. One (rather too plausible) scenario, suggested during the day was that these were diversions for the big one, but that, thankfully, never came. It would, however, have been well within the realms of Al Quaeda to do such a thing. In many fields, this is known as "divide and conquer".
Someone pointed out today, somewhat flippantly, though with possible grounding, that it actually is very far from Al Quaeda's interests to be letting the G8 deal with the issue that Live8 made so painfully obvious, and that make poverty history have been campaigning about for the last few years. The thing is, these poverty-stricken areas, where there is no way out, are their prime recruiting ground. The last thing they want is to stop the troop supply for their Crusade.
Now, it's possible for those still reading to say that I'm only writing what I've written because it didn't directly affect me. I'd like to think that even had I been there on one of those crowded tube carriages, I'd think and say the same things. We must still stand up to Tony Blair, and we must still keep fighting for the things we really believe in, rather than the things we are told we must believe in.