Thursday, July 07, 2005

Madness in London

The next underground train arrived just as I reached the platform in Paddington, and on I jumped. We started to pull out of the station - and stopped, with a jerk.


The doors opened.

"I don't know what is the problem," announced the Driver, "but I've just been told the power is shot in the next section of the track, so we're waiting here."

People started to leave.

It wasn't just our line - the power was out all over the underground. Almost all the trains had been stopped. Very soon all of them had. And then the buses.

As I shared a taxi with four strangers, we speculated on what was happening. There were reports of power surges and collapsing cables. There had been an explosion. "Maybe it's the French?" one of the other passengers suggested. "Annoyed by the Olympic decision." We laughed.

The enormity of the disaster gradually became clear. There had been a major, coordinated terrorist attack on London, with three bombs on the underground, and another in a London bus. It's just dawning on me now that I'd very nearly been in the path of one of those bombs...

But I'm safe, for now. I've been texting, phoning, and replying to concerned queries from friends, colleagues and family who knew I was in London. And fortunately I don't have to brave the cancelled public transport to get to the airport tonight.I've been fortunate.

37 people are dead. Many more are injured. For the first time in the "war on terror", London has been directly attacked. I'm not sure where this will lead, but I suspect we're in for a rough ride.


Anonymous said...


I didn't know that you were in London. I'm glad to hear that you are alive and well.

I'm over in Budapest at the moment, so it is difficult to get the mood of people in the UK. For those of us who are out of the country what is the reaction?

Here in Budapest we had bomb scares in 3 of the main shopping malls yesterday afternoon, when the news of the bombings was coming through. I haven't been able to find out if these were connected to the London attacks, or just the work of disturbed individuals. I wonder has anything similar happened in any other European cities?


Paul said...

I have not heard such reports from Europe (but I hadn't heard about Hungary, so you'd never know). I seem to remember that there were similar sick hoaxes in Omagh after the bomb. Some people are twisted!

People were advised to stay at home on Friday, and London was much emptier than normal. I have not been speaking to many "natives", so it's hard to say - but the reaction seems more calm than hysterical.

Next week things will be clearer.

Interestingly, and partly due to the location of some attacks, there were significant muslim casualties. It will be interesting to see how that affects the debate within the Islamic community.

Islamic authorities in the UK seem to have been quicker to condemn the bombs than parts of the catholic hierarchy sometimes were to condemn republican violence in Northern Ireland. Hopefully this position will be sustained, and the temptation to "explain" or "understand" the motivation of the murderers will be resisted. This should help the non-muslim English community to understand that not all muslims are terrorists waiting to strike.

It may also help discourage more "idealistic" elements in the muslim community from turning to violence. There seems to be some debate within Islam about the nature of Jihad - the argument for peaceful coexistence needs to be won.