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Liberty Belle: The London Bombings

Liberty Belle
Deborah Coddington's Liberty Belle

Most of us will be glued to the television or radio today, listening for news about London, and effects of the senseless, mindless, irrational collectivism that motivates the fundamentalist and nihilist beliefs of the terrorists. How anyone can call these murderers "freedom fighters" is beyond me. And I don't agree with the sanctimonious listener who emailed Linda Clark accusing us of "selective sympathy" because we ignore the daily terrorist bombings in places like Baghdad, because "white Westerners matter more". We don't ignore them. They repulse us too. But because more of us have friends and relatives in places like London, we fear for the safety of those we know personally. And because more of us have visited London than Baghdad, we can identify with the strangers we once rubbed shoulders with in the streets, avoided the eyes of in the tube, jostled and pushed in the buses.

How many of you, like me, have given up waiting for the slow elevator, then cursed the seemingly endless stairs at Russell Square Station? I look back now and feel fortunate that I wasn't exiting that station in the midst of a terrorist attack, and I feel for all those commuters, terrified that another explosion was going to occur before they got out, wondering where the next bomb was coming from.

When I was at Cambridge University in 2003 on the Wolfson Fellowship, I often caught the train to London that came in at Kings Cross Station - a huge meeting place of people rushing to catch their trains to Scotland and across England. I remember trying to transfer to the Circle Line one day, and being prohibited by security officials because yet another "package" had been left on the Underground. I got grumpy and stomped away to get a bus, thinking how futile it was to be so vigilant when terrorists can strike when you least expect it. Then last night's news hit us, and we realise how much our continued existence depends on these very officials who risk their own lives to check out all these innocent packages, until one day the package, or the passenger, is lethal.

And here we sit on the other side of the world, counting our blessings, but phoning our friends to make sure their children are safe. As soon as the news was texted to me at 9.46 last night I immediately thought of my two daughters in London right now. Were they okay? Calls to cellphones wouldn't go through (of course) and texts remained unanswered. This morning my eldest daughter reassured me with her typical common sense - "Mum, they wouldn't be out of bed at that time of the morning anyway." (Turns out they've been in Prague anyway.)

But thank God for today's communications tools - quick, cheap and efficient, even in the midst of disaster. I can remember when overseas calls had to be booked weeks in advance - and that was just at Christmas time. Lord knows how long it would take to get through in the event of an emergency such as London has just experienced, if the rest of the world had left us behind in the days of the state-owned NZ Post Office.

Let us just hope that we are overlooked when those bastards who sign up to terrorism cast their eyes around for the next target.

Yours in liberty,

Deborah Coddington


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