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THE 'INEVITABLE' COMES HOME

 

11:00 - 09 July 2005
 
'It happened against a backdrop with which we are so familiar - the red London bus, the Tube signs' T was sad, despicable, terrible and horrific - take your pick of the adjectives that now pepper Britain's newspapers and our national conversations. Even those of us who were immersed in the reporting of the terrorist attacks on London will have felt our emotions surging once we had departed our offices for home. Until such time we exist in a curious vacuum in which the professional demands of recording and reporting the events prevail.
 
Afterwards - well, what afterwards? The mournful strains of Mahler were playing on Radio Three as I drove back to the house and, while usually I would switch over - not in the mood after a tiring day - this time I drifted. I came close to ramming the car into a junction as my own sadness for those people in London, their agony, shock and heartbreak, welled up.
 
It was not just the immediate victims of this carnage who concentrated my thoughts. Not just those unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity and witness the aftermath.
 
I thought as well of those who would survive but whose lives would ever after be changed utterly. In the coming days we will read in poignant detail of those who lost their lives, their work, their family life, their passions and hobbies, and the warmth of their worlds - their worlds, like ours, so ordinary, yet torn apart. We will see their photographs gazing out at us and wonder at what lies beneath. What we will not see and can only guess about is how the shock of this day will be carried like a cargo by so many others, or how it will be felt in five, in ten or 20 years to come.
 
I thought of this and then, well, something else. How did this happen? Why did this happen, if ever there can be a why to such cold-blooded and indiscriminate carnage? What force of hate ran through the nerves and minds of those who planned and orchestrated these attacks, what god-fuelled visions, and what simplistic and frenzied ideas about those who mere hours or minutes before may have been walking past them, sitting before them, pedestrians and commuters, the broad-brush of race and creeds and beliefs?
 
Then I remembered how often we had been told that such a terrorist attack was "inevitable", or predictable. We shrugged it off as we slunk back into the comfortable routines of daily life.
 
Now, the cruel and savage world about which we read and we see on our TV screens - always far away and always at an anaesthetising distance - had come to London. At least 50 dead as I write this - and each life a precious and irreplaceable universe. And it happened against a backdrop, a cityscape, with which we are so familiar: the red London bus, the Tube signs, the bustling metropolis. 50 dead, I wondered - but isn't that, sorry, just one bad day in Baghdad? Do they die and suffer as did those people in London on Thursday morning? If so, how come we hardly notice or allow it to slip into the background of our normality?
 
I recalled the Iraqi speaker I had heard in Edinburgh last Saturday who described, as a witness, the devastation of the blitz of Fallujah. And I wondered - what of the people in the streets beneath that onslaught?
 
What of the 100,000 dead - how many, we cannot tell for sure - and what of the warnings, such strident warnings, that the world was watching and the war would feed a violence and a religious fanaticism that would inevitably come back to haunt us?
 
Is there a hierarchy to the value of human life? To those who enacted this atrocity in London, whoever they were or to whatever extremist sect they claim allegiance, this surely will have been small "payback", a reciprocal terror for the extraordinary and similarly indiscriminate slaughter of the War on Terror. It is to declare - we can do this to you as well.
 
It will be incitement for retaliation that will further accelerate the dehumanising cycle of overwhelming violence. It too will be a call to arms, to be celebrated in ghettos of religious fanaticism across the Middle East.
 
Surely there is little we can do to thwart people who are so wide-eyed with religious fervour and the certainty of a "martyr's" afterlife that they will happily sacrifice themselves along with all others around them.
 
But this is a monster that is in no small part of Western making.
 
If the world shifted on its axis after the tragedy of 9/11, it is because we allowed it to be so. We allowed our governments to make it so. If Britain is changed by what occurred on Thursday, and propelled yet further down that destructive course, it will be similarly so.
 
Remember, as we pore over those newspaper images of the people who died, and read the anguished detail of how all they have been and all they could have been was extinguished in minutes, in seconds, that they are victims to add to the many more.
 
Sad, despicable, terrible and horrific could describe what happened to them all.
 
nyoung@westernmorningnews.co.uk