We didn’t plan to do it that way, but we flew to London right after September 11. Our flight was booked for September 12, 2001 and we were delayed three days, but we went shaken. The bumpy ride didn’t end by stepping off of that horrid Canada 3000 flight to Gatwick at 10 pm London time. No, there was to be some sleep wherever we could find a decent patch of carpet in the Heathrow departures area until our flight to Oslo, Norway left in the morning. (The hotels surrounding the airports had all jacked up their prices to commemorate the terrorist attacks.) But everyone we encountered – the shuttle bus driver, the airport staff, and the bobbies – were cheerful and sympathetic to our predicament.
When we returned to Britain after touring Scandinavia, we were greeted with tea and sympathy from our British friends. We stayed in Cheltenham with Amy, who now works in London (Amy, Zamiha, hope you guys are okay). Her Mom left on a trip to Paris via the Chunnel shortly after we arrived, but the trip was delayed at Victoria station because of a terrorist scare. I was alarmed, sheltered Canadian that I am, but Amy assured me this sort of thing was not terribly unusual. When her Mom returned from the trip, she talked about rubbish bins being removed from Tube Stations because they were potential hiding places for IRA bombs. And you had better believe that unattended cars or baggage are swiftly and unapologetically removed from airports and stations, and destroyed.
And as I’ve read like fifteen times this morning in articles on the attack, the British lived through the Blitz and Hitler and WW2, IRA attacks for 30 years or more, and still commemorate the day Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Parliament Buildings with bonfires and gunpowder. I love their spirit. I love that so many Londoners converged on the pubs at 11 am to commiserate in the wake of the attacks, rather than trudging home in fear. I love that those who had to walk out of the subway tunnels lit the way with their mobile phones, and used their videophones to document what they were experiencing. I love the invocation to keep a “stiff upper lip” and vowing not to interrupt the usual routines because of the bombings.
I hate those who spout off from a comfortable distance about how Bush and Blair are responsible for these terrible bombings happening, how we need to go forth and kill, and smirk about “payback” for the Iraqi occupation. People dying are people dying are people dying.
I send my love to those of you living right there, living through the nightmares in my newspaper. I hope you are okay and safe.