Saturday, July 09, 2005

London Bombing

Within minutes, before the debris settled, spin merchants on all sides were defining the issues, phrasing the talking points, assessing the blame, drawing lessons, and watching carefully for opposing voices to say something, anything, that could be drawn out of context and held up as an example of how black-hearted and wrong that opposing voice is.

Instead of that, take a minute and try to imagine what it must have been like to be sitting there, reading the paper, minding your own business, and having death flash into your life. Immediately, you wouldn't know if it was some kind of mechanical catastrophe, or a bomb, or the end of the world. You wouldn't know, and it wouldn't matter to you in the least. All that would matter would be the shock, and the flash, and the smoke, and the noise, and the screaming, and the pain. And that's all.

For a few moments, you wouldn't care whether Blair should have led your nation into war, you wouldn't care about fly-paper, you wouldn't care about fundamentalism in any of its forms. You would only care about staying alive.

There is plenty of time to point fingers, accuse, assess, argue, and blame. And that's all fine and good - perhaps even necessary for us to move forward.

But, for a few moments, I didn't want to hear it, or think about it, and I certainly haven't wanted to write about it. Part of me was with those people in the Tube, and the darkness, smoke, and panic felt nearby. And I knew freshly, as I have always known at various levels of urgency, that we are all just humans in fragile bodies. And hate, or stupidity, or accidents, can slam into your life and change it all.

Worse yet, it can happen to those you love. I think of my friend and college room-mate, Dave Kaplan, bleeding out in his apartment building, because some scared and stupid person was angry at someone else. I think of Steve Mayhew getting shot at a party I skipped. I think of Aunt Jen, someone I never knew, but whose loss haunted my father for the rest of his life, being crushed in an accident with a drunk driver.

The homepage of NYU has a notice today that nobody from there is reported to have been wounded - good news, yes, but also a silent acknowledgement that random violence could have touched Sam's community as easily as it did others. Meanwhile, Tulane's homepage has information about monitoring Hurricane Dennis - underscoring the fact that Ali will soon be exposed to fresh, new dangers.

Those people in the Tube, and those people who love them, had the bell toll for them this week. And it tolled for thee.


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