On the spot - Alex Thomson

As I go through London’s Liverpool Street station more often than I can count, I’ve got used to regular security alerts.

But Thursday morning was different. There were no buses outside.

No cabs. Instead of leisurely pulling across the steel shutters to seal off the tube entrance – the police were running at it.

And they were there in numbers.

“There’s
been an explosion,” they were telling people matter-of-factly. They
kept on saying it was some kind of electricity surge.

I called
the office. There’s some problem elsewhere – the power’s been out here,
they said. Clearly something serious was going on.

Another
policemen approached: “This didn’t come from me Mr Channel Four,” he
smiled calmly, “but Aldgate’s where the real drama is.”

I got
there and asked for the bronze – the officer in charge. With fire
engines, convoys of taxis and police cars, police Range Rovers, police
estate cars, police motorbikes and police mountain-bikes arriving every
minute – with men getting into breathing apparatus – well, even I could
see the bronze might be a wee bit busy.

But now the cops were
talking of something wrong at King’s Cross – over the radio I heard
them say the main Marylebone Road was being shut off. This is some
electrical surge. And then, the news of the bus. Forget the surge
theory. Suddenly all that stuff about the British security services
saying it is not a matter of if but when London is bombed – well it all
came home.

Next minute we were interviewing a man with minor cuts and scrapes: “I knew it was a bomb immediately,” he told us.

I
also witnessed a frankly remarkable coordinated rescue effort from the
police, ambulance and fire crews. Areas were quickly cordoned.

The walking wounded removed in commandeered London buses. The hospitals emergency plans went smoothly into reality.

Yes,
London was severely disrupted. Yes, all you could hear around King’s
Cross and Liverpool Street for much of the day was the patter of feet
and the sirens as people tramped home – instead of the roar of traffic.

Resolution
from a city that has gone through the blitz, the days of IRA bombings
and now this. London life didn’t stop. It altered, it adjusted, it will
return to normal motion.

In part perhaps, because people may not actually be surprised at what’s happened.

They
were warned, indeed all but promised this by the police. And by Osama
bin Laden: “If you bomb our cities we will bomb yours.”

We have
bombed their cities, as everybody knows. They have now bombed ours and
will do so again if they can. So says Al Qaeda – which is much more a
state of mind than an organisation. And so says the Met.

So yes,
I see British stoicism and calm on the streets, though let’s not overdo
all that stuff. Because on the sweaty overcrowded Central Line this
week I’ve seen people who simply have no choice about getting to work
and who know what our government has signed up to and what the price
is, for the innocent, in Baghdad, in Kabul and in London.

Alex Thomson is a reporter for Channel Four News

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