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Bomb Attacks in London

Bomb Attacks in LondonYru

The bomb attacks in London on Wednesday which killed dozens and wounded hundreds more brought chaos to the streets of Britain's capital city. As well as those directly affected by the blasts, hundreds of thousands of Londoners and visitors were caught up in the confusion as the transport system was shut down, and telephone communications became difficult, or even impossible. Among them was the BBC's Jerusalem Bureau Editor Simon Wilson who was on a trip back to London, his home city, when the bombers struck:

My tiny walk-on role in London's drama began shortly after nine in the morning. The underground train I was travelling on stopped sharply as we approached Paddington station. "Something's happened on the line ahead", said the driver, "it must be serious". It was. Although at that stage I didn't know it, a bomb had exploded on a train at the very next station Edgware Road killing and injuring dozens of people.

We were led along a section of track and up some stairs. On the roads outside, ambulance and police sirens wailed. Long suffering London commuters -- still unaware of the cause or scale of what was happening -- began to look for alternative routes. Strangers talked to strangers -- a rare event in the morning rush hour. Everyone had a theory. A train crash, a power surge, a bomb attack -- perhaps two bombs, maybe more.

Then it was clear, London had been attacked. People, ordinary people on buses and trains had been killed and injured. In my experience, there is a universal human response to such news. Whether it happens in London or Jerusalem, New York or Baghdad, Madrid or Bali. Find family and friends, call them now -- make sure they're ok -- tell them you're ok. Everything else can wait.

In my case, there was an instant sense of irony. For the past four years, I have lived with a young family in Jerusalem through one of the most intensive campaigns of suicide bombing that any single city has ever experienced. At times it has seemed that each bus might explode, that every restaurant, every cafe was a potential death trap. A number of friends and colleagues have had close shaves and as a journalist I've seen the horror such attacks can cause. But as I called my wife in Jerusalem to reassure her, I realised that this incident in London was as close as I'd ever been to getting caught up in a bombing myself.

Now, as the dust begins to settle, I can't help wondering how all this might affect London in the long run. In Israel, repeated attacks against civilians over a period of years have led to a culture of extreme security -- guards on the door of virtually every public place, vehicles checked before entering car parks, police roadblocks on busy shopping streets. Normal life does continue, but with constant reminders of the threat.

One of the joys of family visits to London in recent years has been the simple pleasure of extreme normality. A meal in a restaurant without constant glances toward the door, a long, relaxing bus ride across town, NOT having to explain to my daughters why soldiers with guns are stopping cars in the street. Above all, London is one of the great melting pots of world culture, where people of all races, all religions and cultures can and do live in relative harmony. Could this now be under threat?

In Jerusalem the ravages of history have left a city sharply divided -- often literally street by street -- Arab from Jew, Christian from Muslim, Secular from Religious. Only since living there have I grown to realise how much I took for granted growing up on London's cosmopolitan streets.

And yet after the bombings here, the mood on those same streets seems clear. And absolute determination not to allow the killings to change London's way of life in any substantial way. The newspapers are full of fiery resolve, of how Londoners have seen off the German Luftwaffe and the bombers of the IRA in the past and will now face down the islamic extremists suspected of this latest attack. And as I pack my bags to return to Jerusalem, I have little doubt that that's exactly what my fellow Londoners will do.
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