Posted Monday, July 2, 6:30 p.m.
LONDON – Thursday was a day of celebration. My classmates and I had just completed our finals for the Boston University summer program and were ready to go out and rejoice in our new-found freedom.
London’s top nightlife districts – Covent Garden and Piccadilly Circus – were on the top of the list.
The glowing lights and top clubs at Piccadilly Circus are a big draw for many college students including myself. At least once a week, I take the eight-minute Underground Tube trip from my dormitory to the district to visit my favorite club: the Sports Caf?. Located on Haymarket Street less than a block away from the top-rated Tiger, Tiger club, the Sports Caf? is at the heart of London’s bustling theater and club scene, which draws in thousands of people each night.
However, I decided not go out Thursday night and opted for a few hours of sleep before catching my early-morning flight to Munich, Germany, where I would be spending the weekend.
When I boarded the plane to Germany, I was oblivious to the news that a Mercedes Benz full of gasoline and nails was sitting near Tiger and another, similarly equipped car was a few hundred yards away. Not until Sunday night did I learn that countless lives were saved while I was away.
“Glasgow Terror” was the headline splashed across a 24-hour German news channel at the airport and was the first signal to me that something was amiss. Soon, images of a burning car filled the screen.
I tried to put the early morning images out my mind. Glasgow, Scotland was hours away from London.
When I landed at Stansted Airport, which is about an hour and a half from London, there was still nothing that was unordinary except a slightly stronger police presence than normal.
It was not until I saw the front pages of Britain’s Sunday newspapers when I finally learned the reality of the U.K.’s various failed terrorist bombings that had occurred over the past 36 hours.
The Sunday Times lead story was headlined “Britain under attack as bombers strike at airport” and indicated that recently appointed British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had put the country on a “critical” alert. This means that a terrorist attack is expected “imminently,” according to MI5, Britain’s intelligence and security agency.
The British tabloid News of the World’s first article had the headline, “FLAMING HELL” and included pictures of the suicide bomber being apprehended by the police amidst flames and smoke at Glasgow Airport.
Then the e-mails came.
The first was from Boston University, splattered with the subject, “URGENT: MESSAGE TO STUDENTS.” The rest were e-mails from my parents and friends making sure I was okay and “being careful.”
Naturally, I ignored the advice of my parents and friends and went out to Piccadilly Circus to check out the scene for myself.
At Piccadilly, the atmosphere was the same as it had always been.
Men in cheap suits were selling “discount” tickets into clubs, girls were tottering uneasily in high heels and tourists were beaming toothy grins into digital cameras.
Conversation on Haymarket Street outside of Tiger, Tiger was about “the cute boy from the club” rather than Mercedes Benz that could have changed history.
The only indications of the attempted bombing were two smiling police officers across the street from Tiger, Tiger and a newly designated no parking zone around the club.
This environment is present throughout the U.K. Britons are going about their lives as they always have with little fear of anything to come. Just as they went quickly back to their normal lives after the 7/7 London bus bombings, Britons are going to work, attending Wimbledon and preparing for the Tour de France, which will come through London this weekend.
I too will follow the example of the British and go to my internship, attend a match at Wimbledon and cheer on bicyclists racing through downtown London.
I too will not be governed by fear.