Earlier today terrorists detonated four bombs, three on the London Subway system (at 8:51 a.m., 8:56 a.m., and 9:17 a.m., BST) and one on a double-decker bus (at 9:47 a.m., BST). Thirty-three people were killed in the subway system, and more on the bus. Hundreds were injured.
The BBC has posted some accounts from survivors here.
I heard about this on WBUR, which was still running the BBC broadcast, while on my way to work. I was stunned. I don’t know how to react. I wondered if the past decade of quiet from the IRA had lulled Londoners into a more complacent state. I tried to imagine what it was like for the people who went through it. I wondered if these bombs were left in knapsacks like the ones used in the Madrid train bombings. If so, how would I react if I noticed a knapsack or bag left behind while on the subway? Would I even notice, or would I be oblivious, paying attention to my reading and nothing else, until the blast hit?
Terrorism is the new Cold War. I miss the old one. At least then we knew who the black hats were.
Growing up in the Cold War, I don’t think we were instilled with the idea that the Russian people were our enemies, it was just the government of the USSR and its leaders that were bent on global domination under Communism. As a late-comer to the nuclear age, I also didn’t fear nuclear holocaust. The rational insanity of MAD (mutually assured destruction) made perfect sense, and kept the peace for decades.
I’ll have to talk to my children about this. I wonder if they are fearful about what is going on in the world. David, our six-year-old hero, would probably not be afraid. He would imagine himself defusing a subway bomb before it could detonate, and single-handedly wiping out the terrorists who left it. At some point, we grow out of being afraid of things like lightning, and take on fears that are larger in scope. Isaac probably wouldn’t think about it at all, and John would probably be nervous about riding on public transport.
I don’t live in fear, but I know many people do. I do wonder what is next. There are many nasty things that we haven’t seen used by terrorist organizations. Some of them, like a bioterror attack using Spanish Influenza, are so easy that I can’t believe they haven’t been used yet. Read Richard Preston’s Demon in the Freezer, for starters.
And, since I’m on the topic, let’s stop calling the Iraqui terrorists insurgents. In our own War for Independence in 1776, we were insurgents. With the only exception being the destruction of the tea in the Boston Tea Party, our targets were strictly military. When innocent civilians are intentionally targeted (and not merely suffering in collateral damage), that’s terrorism. Why are we afraid to use the word?