Friday, 8 July 2005

Terrorist Logic

ter·ror·ism
noun: the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion

When the underground train I was in this morning stopped at Hammersmith and we were told that all services had been suspended, we all thought 'here we go again, the tube is falling to pieces' as we filed out of the station. What was really happening though was beyond anybody's imagination. After yesterday's euphoria at getting the 2012 Olympic games, nobody could have thought that the city was under attack. But under attack it was and, if we are to believe this article from The Register that quotes the Islamist website that supposedly claimed responsibility for the bombings, terror was exactly what it was all about:

[...]The heroic mujahideen have carried out a blessed raid in London. Britain is now burning with fear, terror and panic in its northern, southern, eastern, and western quarters.[...]

To the risk of disappointing some of the heroic mujahideen, if London is burning tonight, it is not with fear and terror, but with a determination not to give in to the terrorist blackmail. Part of it is no doubt due to the amazing response of the emergency services and infrastructure of the city. As far as I know, within minutes, the following happened:

  • The whole underground network was evacuated and closed off. This in itself is an amazing feat if you consider that the London underground carries about 3 million passengers a day and it was rush hour.
  • All buses in central London were evacuated and called back to depot.
  • Police, fire fighters and ambulance crews were deployed on the scenes of the blasts, while they were cordoned off.
  • All major mobile phone networks removed a large proportion of their bandwidth from public usage to reserve it for emergency services.

The most amazing was the reaction of the Londoners themselves. There was no panic. Everybody kept calm, was very understanding of the situation and found alternative solutions to get to where they needed to go. It was business as usual, refusing to give in to the terror, which was obviously the point of those attacks, all in typically cool British fashion. Such as when someone called our offices from abroad, asking for our salesman and unaware of what was happening in London, the person who took the call answered in a very matter of fact way: No, Jason is not in today, we've had a bit of a bother with transport here in London. Of course, we did spend a lot of time checking the news to know and understand what was happening, calling family and friends or checking how we would get home in the evening. But most of all, people tried to have a normal work day. Then when it got time to go home, people, who would normally catch a train or a bus, took the river boats or simply walked. Then by 6pm buses started being put back into service, especially on the remaining routes, probably because those buses require a conductor and are therefore inherently safer (but this is only me speculating). And tomorrow should be back to normal with full tube and bus services.

What happened in London today was terrible and senseless. Our thoughts are with the families of the dead and wounded but if the aim was to make the people of London burn with fear, terror and panic, it has failed. Tonight, I am proud to be a Londoner, albeit an adopted one.

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