Presence of mind, or absence of body?
I'm in New York City, and I'm safe. Thank you to those of you who asked after me, fearing I was in London. Yes, one of the attacks (King's Cross/Russell Square) was close to my usual route to work, at the time I'm normally there. That bombing seems to have been the most lethal. I remember the King's Cross Fire. Fate is not kind to that part of London, it seems.
For whom does the bell toll?
While SharQ's writeup remains unedited, I'd like to say that there have 'only' been four bombings, not seven. The death toll is slowly climbing, though. Each death is an individual and eternal tragedy. We cannot say that fewer deaths matter less.
New York is more like London than any other city outside Europe that I have visited. The Empire State Building looks nothing like I imagined it - I think it had somehow become conflated in my mind with the Chrysler Building. But I seem to remember that the mock Empire State at the New York, New York casino in Las Vegas did match (and therefore reinforce) my mental image. The streets here are endless straight lines, with confusingly similar names. As in California, everything has appeared in some movie or other. Truly unreal.
Wars and rumours of wars
I went down to the International Building at Columbia University, where I'm staying, to watch the TV news. CNN was running nothing but coverage of the bombings in London. Although the reporting was generally good, a number of things struck me:
- The Prime Minister, in his statement, said: 'I welcome the statement put out by the Muslim Council who know that those people acted in the name of Islam but who also know that the vast and overwhelming majority of Muslims, here and abroad, are decent and law-abiding people who abhor this act of terrorism every bit as much as we do.' CNN summarised this in an on-screen quote box as 'Blair: Bombers acted in the name of Islam'. Even in breaking news, more thought should be taken before doing this sort of thing.
- A reporter described the attacks as the worst on London since the Second World War. Now it may just be my imaginatgion, but I seem to remember a bunch of attacks (including a double-decker bus with its top ripped off by a bomb right in front of my college) by the IRA in central London. Some (such as the Docklands bombing) were extremely destructive. But as they were carried out by Irish Republicans (partly funded by Americans), they don't count, right?
- I've been struck several times in my travels through the US by the habit of dropping words like 'Street' from street names. This led to a highly misleading report in the CNN coverage, where we learned about a terror attack on Edgware tube station. There is an Edgware tube station, and it has not been attacked. Edgware Road has been attacked. There's a difference, and people whose loved ones may have been in one location or the other will need the information. 'Liverpool' for 'Liverpool Street' is less misleading, but still confuses and causes us to pause and double-check. Especially when unconfirmed reports have mentioned attacks 'around the UK'.