Thursday, July 07, 2005


I've heard from most of my friends in London, but not all. Our departmental secretary, a wonderful woman, is using the list-serv to try to reach all faculty and students who may be in London this summer; it isn't really working yet. I suspect that many are a bit embarrassed to reply-to-all with "I'm alright; I didn't even wake up 'til 10"; I know that's how I felt the morning of 9-11, replying to emails from people I hadn't heard from in years. Worry doesn't acknowledge embarrassment, however, and so I hope people remind their friends, family, acquaintances, online buddies, whatever, of their continued existence. Catastrophes invite the phatic.

What a horrible thing this was.

From everything I've heard from BBC, the public in London seem remarkably calm: shaken and inconvenienced, yes, but not panicked. The BBC announcer read out some emails from people who witnessed the explosions themselves, and most of the witnesses complimented the emergency services on their professionalism. The men and women interviewed on the street seemed a bit shocked, but their matter-of-fact self-deprecating "well, I don't quite know how I'll get back exactly" humor gave me tremendous hope. We humans are fragile yet resiliant, aren't we!

Of course, I do realize that the BBC wanted to convey this kind of message; they succeeded admirably, their coverage blending horror and defiant British stoicism--when possible, in a working-class accent--to a nicety. It pushed exactly the right buttons for me, so I say Thank you to the Beeb and to the real-life men and women interviewed on the street.

Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, made a statement from Singapore that has been making the rounds, and deservedly. He articulates precisely what I feel, that whatever political greivances one might feel, terrorism targets the average person, the human abstract--and that cosmopolitan, immigrant cities like London (and New York) have been havens for people fleeing dehumanization. From the Livingtone statement:
In the days that follow look at our airports, look at our sea ports and look at our railway stations and, even after your cowardly attack, you will see that people from the rest of Britain, people from around the world will arrive in London to become Londoners and to fulfil their dreams and achieve their potential.

They choose to come to London, as so many have come before because they come to be free, they come to live the life they choose, they come to be able to be themselves.

They flee you because you tell them how they should live. They don't want that and nothing you do, however many of us you kill, will stop that flight to our city where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another. Whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail.
My hours of suspended worry for my friends have reminded me of how many will receive bad news at the end of their waits. My thoughts this evening are with all of them, wherever they be.


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