he bombings in London were a shock… and they were not. It was a shock because of the senseless deaths of dozens of innocent people and the injuries of hundreds. However, by the same token, the attacks have become just another news story of tragedy at the hands of people we hear about every day on the news
So what the fuck is wrong with me?
The ubiquity of the name al Qaeda, the almost daily news of carnage–from bombings that murder the innocent in Baghdad to videoed executions of hostages to government officials being kidnapped to prevent nations from creating diplomatic ties with Iraq–has somehow made me into a kind of statue: cold, unfeeling. Yesterday, as I read the news online on the Washington Post and CNN, all I could do was shake my head at the idiocy of the act, said a small prayer in my heart, then went on to the sports page to see what time the Nationals game was on.
What the fuck is wrong with me.
When I went to work, I noticed a Fairfax police car in front of the Vienna station. I notice one Metro security personnel milling around the turnstiles and ticket machines and another pacing the platform. Hmmm, did something happen? After sitting down in the train and watching this guy in uniform glancing noticeably into every car, it finally hits me: London. The terrorist attacks in the subways have likely pushed up the threat level a notch or two on our subway system, too. But it took me more than a few moments to make this connection because… well, the story had not made an impact on me as it would have a few years ago.
What the fuck is wrong with me?
Actually, I do know. It’s a process of desensitization. It started in Tokyo in 1995. On a March morning, I was supposed to go to the Bank of America in Roppongi to deposit some of the money I had been earning in Japan. The B of A in Tokyo was mostly for corporations in Japan and so closed its door to retail transactions at 12 noon back then. Living in Kunitachi, I had to leave early to get there in time, but I overslept–as usual–and barely got out of the door at 10:00 or so. Even though I ran the risk of getting to the bank barely on time, I was rather relieved that the trains were not as crowded as they might have been had I left earlier. I arrived in Ebisu to change trains to the Hibiya line. But when I got there, the shutter was closed and I couldn’t enter the station. I was rather perplexed as I took the bus to Roppongi, where I found the shutters there also closed. It wasn’t until I got home that I learned on TV that there had been a sarin gas attack on the Hibiya line earlier that morning. I was shocked and disturbed and had to watch and read every morsel of new I could.
A terrorist attack close to home made me more in tune with the terror and panic felt by others that followed: Oklahoma City, the US Embassy bombing in Africa, the USS Cole in Yemen. Then, of course, 9/11. The shock of seeing soldiers brandishing M-16s next to their Bradley vehicles parked right in front of my office at school was unnerving. While the plane crashing into the Pentagon was across the river from where I work, the tension and fear of further attacks in Washington was very real. Then in 2002, we get the idiot who decided to shoot random people in the DC area. I swear, this is probably the most paranoid I had ever been. A woman was shot at a Home Depot parking lot in Farifax. Another was shot while pumping gas in Centerville. Seriously, for three weeks I skipped and ducked and looked over my should constantly as I walked to and from the Metro station. Could the sniper be here? It didn’t keep me from going to work, but I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t very scared.
So when I heard about the attacks on London, I was greatly saddened–I truly feel for those who have to live through this kind of ordeal. I have been muttering requests to God–I suppose my version of prayer–since yesterday for the safety of those in London–certainly guys like detachable, whonose, Inyoungpark and the fongster, and every one else I know in London. I even have a student in Cambridge who is likely safe but perhaps shaken–she was here on 9/11, as well. And yet, I am no longer shocked. These incidents do not incite the anxiety, anger, and even morbid curiosity it once did.
Life goes on.