Sunday, July 17, 2005

Still Standing

My usual rush of anticipation upon bursting through the clouds and seeing the rows of brick houses beneath me was replaced by a dull "what happens now" sort of feeling as I touched down at Heathrow early yesterday morning. I had just returned from two weeks' holiday abroad, and like many people around the world, had spent more than one evening in front of the television, watching the events and fallout from the bombs in London unfold. While the coverage of the 9/11 attacks in the US shocked the world in a way that no other terrorist attack has done before or since, 7/7 was made all the more real to me because it was where I live, the trains and buses I use, the people I pass on my way to work every morning.

Watching from my parents' living room in Montreal, I felt detached, safe and disturbingly ready to think about other things instead. So when it came time for me to return to London, I braced myself for a reality check. Thing is, I had no idea what reality would look like on the ground, beyond the heavy-rotation newsreel footage of a bombed out bus and emergency crews running down into the tube tunnels. How would London be different from when I had left it? Would it be all flags and national pride? Would it be quiet streets as people stayed indoors?

Not a bit of it. Taking the taxi from Paddington to EC1, people on the streets were going about their business as usual, shops were thronged, tubes running, you name it. Driving past King's Cross was a poignant moment, though, with the rows of heartwrenching missing-person posters taped to a wire fence and fluttering in the wind, and the dozens of flowers left outside the church nearby.

After a few hours' rest, I went down to Clerkenwell Road to see the Italian procession, and from there moved on to the Exmouth Market Festival. I am so glad that I did. I'd never seen it so packed, so full of life. Everyone was there, from babies to OAPs, dancing, eating, drinking, browsing, mingling... London may have been hurt, but it takes more than a few madmen with bombs to crush such a free spirit. For the first time ever - as a relative newcomer to the capital - I felt not just happy, but incredibly proud to live here.


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