For all people’s understandable jittery fears, today is without doubt the safest day to use public transport in London in recent years. Those responsible have left their mark and today security is at its tightest ever. The shocking events of yesterday were horribly timed, following the successful Olympic bid and coinciding with the G8 summit (leading to more distinctly unhelpful “war on terror” hyperbole). However, I was genuinely puzzled by the number of people who seemed so surprised by the attack. I guess deep down I (and I’m sure many other Londoners) have been waiting for this to happen for years; it was always just a matter of time.
I think people had begun to grow complacent like the Americans pre-2001 because we haven’t had to deal with major IRA threats for quite some time now. Before that terrorism outraged us but we remained unfazed. Indeed, even yesterday London overall did remain extraordinarily calm for a city under attack, which I think is down to more than mere British stoicism. My sister was slightly more worried since she had left for France that morning and so was receiving broken and hyped up reports of events while on the move.
Unsurprisingly Al-Qaeda connections were raised almost instantly but the police are keen to stress that no one has claimed responsibility to them. While carefully coordinated, it actually seems to lack the theatrical nature of a major Al-Qaeda operation (not to mention a distinctly lower body count than say the Madrid bombings – horrific as yesterday was, we got off lightly). My “fear” when using the underground has always been a gas-based attack (Sarin, VX, etc.) due to the airflow model that most stations don’t use active pumps to maintain circulation, but instead rely on the blocks of air pushed by the trains, creating a low pressure in the station they are leaving that draws in more air from the surface. Thus stopping the trains would stop circulation and prevent any toxic gas from dispersing. But I suppose as yesterday proved, bombs still make their point just as well. It’s something you deal with as a Londoner and get on with things. Life goes on. Until yesterday.