One of the emails I wrote to family following the 7/7 bombings of 2005.
From: Claire Nelson
Sent: Thu, Jul 28, 2005 9:25 pm
Subject: A Thursday in London
Well, it’s Thursday again. Like Arthur Dent once said before the earth was blown up to make way for a hyperspacial bypass;
“It must be Thursday, I never could get the hang of Thursdays.”
London is full of police. Police with guns, police with hats, police with yellow jackets on. Everywhere you go, there are pairs of police officers. Standing on the platform as you wait for your train. Waiting at the ticket turnstiles as you pass through. Questioning people in corners. Watching.
It’s all very exciting, innit! There are police raids all over the city at the moment, with many people being arrested, and there have even been a couple of taser-ing incidents. I couldn’t resist buying a newspaper which captured it; the heading was London 2005 and the picture was a gaggle of police officers wandering through Leicester Square holding guns. It’s a bit like that really.
Me, I’m not worrying about all of that. There is many a paranoid Briton here who allow themselves to be caught in the wave of panic that entered London three weeks ago and have not let go of it since. “Dear god, but they must ban rucksacks on the tube!!” came the cry from many female voices, shaking their manicured fists poignantly at the sky. My dear ladies, would you say the same rule should apply had the bombers been carrying handbags? Others are insisting they shall never continue a journey on the Underground if they should see anyone of Asian origin carrying a bag on their carriage. Oh please.
Obviously, after the 7th of July, London was scared. But despite the outrageous declarations of bravado, to have the same thing almost recreated two weeks later was not actually expected. When I found out that again four bombs were set to blow apart the tube and buses, but not one of the bombs managed to go off, I couldn’t help thinking, in a satisfactory way, that it was a little amusing. Overall, though, we all realised this wasn’t a one-off. And so the people of London were set into hysterical panic mode.
Which does explain a little better the events of last Friday. It was certainly disconcerting to firstly have the police shoot a suicide bomber 8 times in the head in front of passengers on the Underground. Only to then find out that he wasn’t a suicide bomber after all. Oh dear! But he had run from the police, said the people – he must be guilty! Not really. They say his visa had run out. I heard someone comment, “Well, I guess when your visa’s up, it’s really up.”
I see a lot of lonely looking Middle Eastern folk on public transport nowadays. None of whom are carrying bombs of course; most of which are just carrying their lunch and a nice book. On the tube, people all glance sideways at one another. You can almost tell what they’re thinking. Someone will have a rucksack and everyone will stare at it. I can’t get over the general air of paranoia at the moment. It is creating a divide as everyone suspects everyone else. One image I heard someone describe – which I so wish I could have caught on camera – was a young female traveller with a large backpack on her back, wandering through the city the other day. On her pack she had taped a handwritten sign which simply said,
“I am going camping.”