Terror

This is round 2 of ‘drafts I never published’ but am now doing so because I’m on holiday with the parentals…

I wanted to let this one lie a little, as I’m far enough removed from the Boston Bombings that I certainly didn’t feel any right to comment on it in the aftermath.

What it made me realise, though, is that I’m certainly not as removed as I felt in lil’ ol’ En-Zed.

Going to watch the London Marathon a week after the horror in Boston was certainly more poignant, and 100% more nervey than I would have expected when I first thought I might ‘pop along to watch for a bit’.

Working my way on foot along the Canary Wharf section of the route I passed miles of happy families, tottering grannies helped by teenagers, tiny bewildered dogs, babies on leashes, handmade posters, and a 30 year old man waving “Go Mummy!” on a pillowcase – all wrapped in sunshine and oozing positivity.

The cheers went up the loudest at the tail ends of each category, encouraging those who needed it most, celebrating achievement wherever it came, cheering for the effort rather than the minutes per mile.

But there was a niggly fear as I got in amongst the tallest buildings and looked up to see the emblazoned names of some of the world’s capitalist finance powerhouses in 360 degree panorama above me. It didn’t help that the City Airport was so close that the underbellies of planes seemed to scrape the pointy tops of the glass canopies.

What if that glass shattered and fell? Well, there was a patch of grass to run into the middle of. What if the buildings shattered and fell? Then there was nowhere to run.

That’s what terrorism does, of course. I hate to bandy that buzzword around as the media does with such overkill, but it’s appropriate in this case. Terrorism is an act of unpredictable violence against unpredictable victims. It makes people afraid in otherwise innocuous situations: going to work, watching an event, boarding a plane.

Of course when these situations become ‘predictable’, the typical reaction seems to be a level of overkill that puts the ongoing fear right up front, such as procedures in airports. I was reminded of this on my way back from Amsterdam recently when I got the full boobilicious/crotchtastic pat-down (aka the ‘everything but the cavity’ search) and our flight was delayed by an overbooking.

Because a passenger was offloaded, everyone in the nearby aisles had to account for the baggage in the overhead lockers. Of course we all instantly realised this was in case the whole charade was a ploy to leave a B-O-M-B on board. Whispers flew around the cabin – what if it was a middle eastern person instead of an upset posh English girl? Would they have offloaded the lot of us to be ‘safe’? Maybe the best recruits for terrorist cells would be sweet pasty white chics?

These are of course the more obvious ways that terrorism comes to the fore, but then there are the subtle differences, such as the lack of rubbish bins in London, especially underground, apparently due to their device-bearing abilities. Ever since moving to London I’d meant to research the 7/7 bombings in London, but something always stopped me.

The 9/11 bombings are seared into memory so that I know exactly where I was and who I was with and what I was doing for that entire day, but the London bombings did not register so.

I think many of us had terrorism fatigue by then, so inundated by primarily-American media  about the impending further worldwide disaster that never quite came as predicted. I remember sitting in front of the telly as a 15 year old on 9/11 and saying to my mother, who I felt didn’t conceive the gravitas of the situation, ‘Mum, this could literally be the start of World War III‘.

And so when the London Underground erupted in a flash of fire and flying limbs, it just didn’t quite strike the same. As terribly callous and removed as that sounds, perhaps it was a bit like how most Westerners feel now when the CNN app pushes a notification saying 70 people were killed by a suicide bomb in [insert 3rd world country].

Bit removed + can’t comprehend + no immediate threat to myself = sad but [insert first world problems].

Post-Boston I finally researched 7/7 in London and found that some of the bombings happened on a leg of my daily route to work. If I had lived here then, I could have died, been injured, known the dead or injured, or at least had a story to tell. Considering how personally affected I was by the Christchurch earthquakes (having not actually been there), I am astounded that I have never heard a personal story of 7/7 outside of 2012 Paralympics coverage.

Do people put the stories and thoughts away in a box buried deeper than the Underground because that is the only way to cope? Nobody enjoys the airport rigmarole, but I find it worse to be trapped on a train between stations on the busiest line, nose-to-armpit with strangers, knowing that the thousands of people on the train with me are all sitting targets at rush hour.

Suddenly also at events I throw a stray thought to possibilities which inevitably linger beyond reason. Watching an Easter play in Trafalgar Square I worried I’d be lumped in with the religious; every Friday I’m concerned by those protesting a company that apparently makes military drones in my work building (the second tallest in the city); and attending Dawn Service on ANZAC day I wondered if anyone cared enough to hate Kiwis.

This is terrorism to me – the fear of the everyday.

 

 

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