It’s the day after. Just one day, 24 little hours, but it feels like a lot longer, what with everything that I’ve seen and read, all the startling images from news crews and camera phones, the vivid accounts of eyewitnesses and onlookers in the press and in weblogs. Only a day, but a day that produced enough stories to fill a library.
My story? Well I wasn’t there, so I don’t have one, or anything really useful to add. I’m only writing this for myself. If you want a personal reaction, there are hundreds of other voices in the blogosphere better qualified to speak. This post is just a clearinghouse for my thoughts on the day.
One thing that sticks out in my mind is the front page of yesterday’s Guardian. I never stopped to look when I bought the paper early in the morning, and it remained in my bag after I got home and switched on the TV to see the first news flash of the day. It wasn’t until much later, after hours of rolling news and surfing news sites and weblogs on the internet, that I finally took it out and unfolded it to see a headline that could not be a bigger contrast with the day’s events. You can click here to see it for yourself.
Obviously, today’s newspapers are dominated by coverage of the London explosions. (The Guardian now has a comprehensive microsite dedicated to its reporting on the attacks, to add to those resources I collected here yesterday.) I spent much of the morning and afternoon leafing through The Guardian and The Independent, drawn mostly to the stories of ordinary people starting their average days, and how they reacted to the chaos that erupted around them.
I was surprised by the lack of coverage in the Irish press. The print editions of both the Indo and The Irish Times were pretty shallow in this regard, which is odd when one considers that Dublin is closer than Glasgow to London, and that many Irish live in or commute regularly to the city. It would have been enlightening to sit in on their editorial conferences yesterday afternoon. (In all fairness, the Indo’s website has far greater depth.)
As far as I can tell, only one person I know was in the thick of it. I got a text message this morning from Benitha’s best friend, Su. She works at Tower Bridge, just a few minutes over the Thames from the Aldgate explosion. She was fine, just distracted by the incessant sirens of the ambulances ferrying the wounded to Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, opposite her building. She had a long journey home in the evening, but that was all.
I’m happy that no one I know was caught up in the attacks, but I’m also sad for all of those Londoners and visitors to the city who were, and are now either dead, grieving or searching for loved ones, or laid up in hospital, watching helplessly through a fog of displacement as the capital goes back to normal.
I’m impressed by the resilience of Londoners who, as if acting on instinct, jumped to action and took control of the situation — police, emergency workers and ordinary citizens alike. And like Tom Coates, I’m also impressed by their stoicism, their reluctance or refusal to wallow in the pity that comes in the aftermath of such atrocities. But I’m sorry that it took years of senseless bombing by the Provos, and the Nazis before, to train them so, to toughen their collective skin.
Contrary to the view of one David M Whalin of Annandale, Virginia — who wrote to The Guardian’s letters page to proclaim “Today were are all Londoners” — I know for certain that I’m not. I don’t know what it feels like to be a Londoner right now, and it’s not my place to assume their thoughts or fears. I don’t know what I would have done if I was there, if I was on that bus, or one of those trains. I like to think I would have helped if I could. Doesn’t everyone? But I can’t be certain. I’ve never been tested like that. And I hope I never am. I hope none of us are.