The Loneliest Jukebox

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Thursday, July 07, 2005

London's Burning: A Personal Account

I was working from home when a series of explosions and 'power surges' were being reported. Just after 9a.m., my flatmate's parents phoned to check he was OK. The first reported incident took place about two tube stations away from me. On went 24-hour news. Out went my phone calls to reassure relatives: the mobile networks were overloaded, for the first time since New Year's Day. Worried emails came in from friends outside London: the person closest to the blast was within earshot of Kings Cross. My work ordered a 3pm shut-down to allow people time to get home.

Meanwhile the 24-hour broadcasters went into overdrive, with speculation and dumb questions about casualty rates. Sky News had the sense to ask if anyone had yet claimed responsibility. The commentary was not unlike the situation facing the Tom Cruise character in War of the Worlds, who experiences the disaster on the ground but seldom gets enough information to make sense of what's going on. TV reports have failed to build up a comprehensive picture, delivering snippets instead and repeating them. Blair's statement seemed as rehearsed as the London contingency plans that were put into play; London Mayor Ken Livingstone did a better job. As to motive, no-one knows; it may be the kind of nihilistic attack where no-one claims responsibility. More will become clear later.