LONDON — Having been born and raised in Michigan, it is safe to say that I have felt somewhat sheltered from the threat of terrorism all my life. The Oklahoma City bombings are a distant and detached memory of my elementary school days. Even after visiting Ground Zero after Sept. 11, the thought of terrorism has never struck me as anything immediate. It was something that I would only see on television or in newspapers; something documented and then consumed, never experienced.
On Thursday, Jul. 7, that seemed to change. My class at the University of London was uniquely situated in regard to the attacks. Just two blocks to the north lies King’s Cross, the sight of the worst bombing, and two blocks south, Russell Square, where bodies still remain.
And, of course, the iconic double-decker bus with its roof ripped open like a can of tuna, and its image projected over every major news source for the past few days. To say the least it was strange.
Our class continued as normal even after the sound of explosions echoed through the halls of our dorms, and our lecturer droned on in the same matter-of-fact tone that he might have otherwise.
Despite the police tape that literally fenced us in, people wandered the streets in much the same way — only the pubs were noticeably more full.
By nightfall, it was hard to tell what it was exactly, but something swirled in the air that was distinctly British. Perhaps it was the memory of the IRA bombings that stretched through the 1980s, or perhaps it was the fact that the country has seen destruction on every level over dozens of centuries, but there was a feeling of acceptance in the eyes and words of those on the street.
There seemed to be a particular sterility of emotion through the populace as a whole. This was evidenced by the fact that at nearly every site of a major disaster — and at the majority of memorials — reporters outnumbered civilian spectators nearly 10 to one.
Within literally a few hours, the buses were running again, and a number of tube lines had opened — with what appeared to be a minimal amount of security. I have seen only one gun on a police officer since being here.
It is difficult to decide whether I should feel admiration or shock at what appears to be a general acceptance among the English of the recent events. When I hear that the driver of the ill-fated number 30 bus returned to work on Saturday, part of me wants to shake the city, tell it to pass a Patriot Act and lock down. But another part thinks perhaps they have the right idea.
Maybe the British have approached this issue in the only way they have learned how, in the way that only the Blitz during World War II and a seemingly ceaseless string of terror in the 1980s could show them. It seems that Londoners have grown used to seeing their great city attacked, but most of all they are used to rebuilding it.
Dziadosz is a Michigan Daily staff photographer who was studying in London during last week’s attacks.