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July 18, 2005

A Lesson From London

The BBC, stepping up to the challenge of finding new ways of using the internet to enhance its coverage, ran an excellent personal journal by "Rachel", a survivor of the London tube bombings. Below is an excerpt from her final journal entry, which I found quite inspiring:

So, the diary ends as it begins, crowded shoulder to shoulder next to other Londoners.

I am at the vigil in Trafalgar Square. This time, sun beats down and we stand in the open air, listening to speeches and poems from the Mayor, clerics and religious leaders, union representatives, TV personalities and news-casters, and most movingly, the train driver of Edgware Road.

We are told how we are united, how we are unbeatable, how we will rise. We are urged to be strong, to show tolerance, and to love and respect each other. Tears fall.

The diary began in a crowded carriage, crammed with people, with an act of murderous barbarity.

With a bang, smoke, shock and fear.

Yet almost immediately, even in the choking darkness, in the almost-animal panic, we remembered our humanity, that we were human beings. We stood up, we comforted each other, we held hands, and if we could, we led and carried each other to safety.

The selfish need to claw and fight for survival, to stampede, to free ourselves at all cost did not win; instead, the learned behaviour of city dwellers, who must live in close proximity with strangers took over.

And that has been the message of the week. We are a civilised society; we live closely and socially in crowded cities. We do not always agree, often we do not talk to each other or look at each other in the face.

Londoners are often accused of haughtiness and coolness. But this week we felt what it is like to come together as a city.

Here is a link to her entries in chronological order.

Rachel's dignified humanity in the face of fear reminded me of why I found Spielberg's War of the Worlds so offensive. Rather than using his talent and the scores of millions of dollars spent making his film to teach people how to act in extremity, he chose to glorify every-man-for-themselves nihilism. Sadly, after his work on films like Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan (or as Executive Producer of the HBO series Band of Brothers), I had expected better of him.

July 18, 2005 at 08:42 PM | Permalink

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