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Thursday, July 07, 2005

A tragedy unfolds

This is not a news site so I will not attempt to do what others can do better. I have been keeping abreast of the awful news from London all day. It seems that each time I return to it the number of casualties has risen. My helplessness is encapsulated by the fact that there is nothing I can say that will undo what has been done or that will help anybody come to terms with it.

The one thing I am having difficulty with is the way that television journalists in particular are filling in the gaps in their rolling news coverage by seeking out unsavoury facts. I have just seen a doctor being interviewed. She was at the BMA offices near to one of the blasts and came out to help with her colleagues. Victims were taken to a nearby courtyard for triage and assistance. Having extracted these details the journalist pushed the obviously distressed doctor for information about any fatalities. He signed off the piece by announcing that there had been no confirmed casualties from that blast as yet. It was real ambulance-chasing stuff.

As in New York and Madrid, the terrorists will find that Londoners do not like being intimidated in this way. The blogosphere is full of individual stories such as this of near misses and interrupted journeys. I have only looked at a few but already I have come across one person who lives in Edgeware Road and who left for work early, thus missing the blast near to her home. Various MPs such as David Davies, John Hemming, and Julie Morgan have given their view from Westminster whilst some blogging London Councillors such as Mary Reid have also chipped in with their own personal stories.

Like John Hemming I cannot better the words spoken by Ken Livingstone about this outrage:

"I hope you will understand if, after the statement I make, I’m not in a position to take questions and I do not want anything I do or say to cause confusion or misunderstanding in the effort now being undertaken by our emergency services to rescue and save those Londoners who’ve been subject to this cowardly attack. Our thoughts are with those Londoners who have been injured. Our thoughts and the efforts of the administration at City Hall will be to care for them and to care for those who have lost loved ones, and there has been loss of life. I want to thank the emergency services for the way they’ve responded.

"Following the al-Qaeda attacks on September 11th in America we conducted a series of exercises in London in order to be prepared for just such an attack. One of those exercises which was done by the government, my office and the emergency and security services was based on the possibility of multiple explosions on the transport system during the Friday rush hour and so the plan that followed from that exercise is being executed today and with remarkable efficiency and courage, and I praise those staff who are doing that. I‘d like to thank Londoners for the calm way they have responded to this cowardly attack and echo [word unclear – sounds like] the advice of Sir Ian Blair, the commissioner of police – do not travel, take the advice of the police, stay at home, wait if you are not at home until you hear over the radio or television the advice of the police about how you will proceed to get home later today.

"I have no doubt whatsoever that this is a terrorist attack, as has been claimed. We did hope in the first few minutes after hearing the events on the Underground that it might simply be a maintenance tragedy. That was not the case. I have been able to stay in touch through the very excellent communications that were established for the eventuality that I might be out of the city at the time of a terrorist attack and they have worked with remarkable effectiveness, and I will continue to be in touch until I board the plane that takes me back to London in the next few hours. I want to say one thing specifically to the world today. This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful. It was not aimed at presidents or prime ministers. It was aimed at ordinary, working-class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Jew, young and old – indiscriminate attempt to slaughter, irrespective of any considerations for age, for class, for religion whatever. That isn’t an ideology, it isn’t even a perverted faith – it is just… indiscriminate attempt at mass murder and we know what the objective is. They seek to divide Londoners. They seek to turn Londoners against each other. I said yesterday to the IOC – this city of London is the greatest in the world because everybody lives side by side in harmony and Londoners will not be divided by this cowardly attack. They will stand together in solidarity around those who have been injured, those who have been bereaved and that is why I’m proud to be the mayor of that city.

"Finally, I wish to speak through you directly to those who came to London today to take life. I know that you personally do not fear to give your own life in exchange for taking others – is why you are so dangerous – but I know you do fear that you may fail in your long-term objective to destroy our free society and I can show you why you will fail. In the days that follow look at our airports, look at our sea ports and look at our railway stations and, even after your cowardly attack, you will see that people from the rest of Britain, people from around the world will arrive in London to become Londoners and to fulfil their dreams and achieve their potential. They choose to come to London as so many have come before because they come to be free, they come to live the life they choose, they come to be able to be themselves. They flee you because you tell them how they should live. They don’t want that and nothing you do, however many of us you kill, will stop that flight to our cities where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another. Whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail."

There is no need to say any more at this time except to remind you once again that you can record your own tributes on this site.

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