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I wasn't there, I was nowhere near

The following might be hard to follow, and may for some wander into wrong way of putting things. But sometimes weblogs are about personal things - like trying to figure out how you feel.

Thank you. Thank you most everyone in the comments, of a couple of days ago, saying you are glad I/we am/are ok. We are. I am glad too. I want to stop talking about this very soon. I realise there is a general 'talk about it and they've won' policy - and I'll be adopting that at the end of this post, but at the moment, I'm still adopting the "four-fucking-bombs-kinda-went-off- in-my-city-two-days-ago-and-I-kinda-need-to-talk-about-it-
in-a-funny-kinda-way" policy.

A couple of thousand people were injured. Some with cuts, bruises, some with burns, some with lost limbs, maimed, disfigured. The count of people who lost their lives is now above fifty, and will probably rise. Myself, my beloved, my family and close friends, we who live in London and commute every day, we are all ok.

This is not unusual. This is a city of more than seven and a half million people. Most of us are fine. Certainly, to listen to a lot of them, you'd think that at least 6 million were 'almost on THAT train' on Thursday morning, but still, we are most of us fine, and feel lucky.

One thing that's struck me is the attitude of some blogs that I've seen. Looking further down the page, you can see how angry their post the day before was -

'Meh meh. London has the Olympics. It's all about London. London's so up its own arse. It's always all about London. Meh meh.' The next day, you can almost sense some of them restraining themselves from actually using the words 'well, they kind of deserve it, don't they?'... Some didn't restrain themselves at all.

Many others - as a form of that kind of restraint? - spent the day pointing out that this was barely a scratch compared to the bombings in Madrid and, of course the WTC attacks in New York. Which of course is all true. But it was still happening. And we weren't quite ready for that yet.

And it has to be said - the scale of the attack was due to luck, bad planning or improved post-9/11 security or whatever. We were lucky. The people who killed 50 would have been deliriously happy to kill 500, 5000 or 50,000 - but couldn't quite manage it. I'm not sorry that this was a smaller attack. But it was an attack - by people that wanted to kill, indiscriminately, as many random Londoners as they could. I don't see that that day - or this one - is the time for compare and contrast. As someone wise said (in my comment box) this is not a game of terrorist attack top trumps. There's no prize. Every place that is attcked by these people. We all lost on those days. Some people lost more than others. Some families.

We were all ok. Myself, Bobbie, my sister, brother-in-law, and all my friends, colleagues and aquiantances. We were all ok.

We were not in danger. I mean, we were in danger in as much as we live in London, use public transport and there were a bunch of crazies running about on Thursday trying to make as many people as possible dead, but apart from that - not actually in any danger at all. I hardly use the underground at all, and certainly never need to use it on the way to work - my route to work is short, easy, and on Thursday - luckily - not even disrupted. While my beloved sometimes has to cross central London during the week in order to meet people for interviews or events, that's not often the case, and wasn't the case on Thursday. Besides, it's really unlikely that he would have been in any of the places affected.

Other people I knew were closer. One friend, evacuated from Kings Cross, streamed down with the river of people trying to find alternate transport and was walking through Tavistock Square when a bus blew up there. Karen was bounced from pillar to post, lucky that her journey didn't go as planned.

But many people were much further away than a turning or a single train from being hurt or even dead right now. But'cha just wouldn't think it to hear'm talk, would you?

I heard it in the pub again last night. "If I'd left an hour earlier and got the Piccadilly line, that would have been me"

You didn't! You never do! You never leave an hour earlier, you live in Islington, you don't need to get the Piccadilly line, you didn't. It wasn't nearly you. It was somebody else. You're fine. Be grateful for that, and move on.

Actually, that's not the thing that intrigues me most. The thing that intrigues me most is the people three steps removed who still cannot seem to sympathise without putting themselves in the image.

At least ten times, at different places on the internet or in emails, I have read something closely resembling this:

"I was in London only three months ago, enjoying the city, using the underground, travelling on buses, walking the streets. I know exactly how those people must feel - after all, it could have been me"

My god! If we keep extending the boundaries, it could have been Samuel Pepys.

Even better is the double whammy. Sometimes even triple whammy. These people have visited London, New York, and sometimes even Madrid too. Boy, do they feel got at.

"I was in London, on the tube, not 6 months ago. Chillingly, I was also at the World Trade Center only 90 days before the attacks there. I thank God I'm still alive."


I'm sorry. I know people have to see their own connection in order to empathise, sometimes, but frankly, this 'could have been me' feels morbid and dirty.

It wasn't you. It was a lot of other people - thankfully and luckily not more - but it wasn't you. It wasn't me. It wasn't my beloved, and it wasn't my family, and it wasn't my friends. We're fine. You're fine. This is about other people, who are hurt, or maimed, or dead, or who have lost someone, or can't find someone, or are spending tonight worrying about whether someone will be alright, or even live.

If you were nowhere near, and you're ok, marvel in that fact. Not in the fact that if you had left the house two hours earlier and taken a completely non-sensical route, it might have been you, or if you happened to be somewhere you were never likely to be, it could have been you. If we're talking about close escapes, there are places you could write about every day that you weren't born, but could have been. You could look at every image on the ten o'clock news and say 'That could have been me'.

If you're ok, and I'm ok, and everyone we care about are ok, and all of the above are alive as *well* as ok, then we should be grateful for that, forget the 'what ifs', think about the people who aren't, and do the stuff of living.

I'm still, I know, more likely to get hit by a bus than blown up on one. I have always been - and will continue to be - more scared of falling off the back of a number 38 than of the terrorist threat to my person.

I love London. I am proud of the residents of this city, and of the emergency services. I am profoundly grateful to all the people not in this place that have expressed sympathy and stood alongside the injured, dead, and otherwise affected. People have shown great humanity, and love for people they have never met, or previously cared about.

Yes, there are some people who take pleasure in seeing those they don't like hurt or inconvenienced, and others still who see the event as proof of their own personal argument or campaign. But let's forget about those people, and end on that other previous previous good note about nice people instead.

Oh piss, they're evacuating Birmingham city centre.
Controlled explosions. People streaming out of an area tightly circled by the police. Oh for fuck's sake.
Terrorists. What an enormous bunch of cunts.

July 9, 2005 09:39 PM | Comments (36)

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