Thursday, July 07, 2005

Oh, God -Please Not Again!

Damage caused by the Canary Wharf bomb, February 1996. Photo taken personally.

The shock of the awful bomb attacks in London is difficult for me to describe. I was really hoping I’d seen the last of the misery caused by terrorist activities even though I haven’t lived in the UK for four years. The city has known relative peace for the past decade however I always suspected that further acts of barbarism were inevitable. Sad to say but there have been so many such incidents in my adult life that I can’t remember them all but here are some that were particularly close-to-home or affected me personally:

October 1974: Surrey

IRA bombs pubs in my home town of Guildford killing 5 and injuring 44.

October 1975

Gordon Hamilton-Fairley, a professor of haematology at St. Bartholomew’s hospital, a place I would work 17 years later was killed in Kensington by a bomb intended for his MP neighbour. I was PhD student at the time and had come up to London for a conference and was staying with a friend in a house nearby. The bomb awoke me rudely in the early hours of the morning. A children’s ward at Barts is now named after Hamilton-Fairley.

March 1979: House of Commons, London

Airey Neave MP, was killed by a booby-trap bomb attached to his car as he left the car park at the House of Commons. The proximity of the bomb to my then place of work, the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, was shocking as was the audacity of the attack.

July 1982: Hyde Park & Regent's Park, London

Four Household Cavalry Guardsmen and 7 horses were killed when an IRA bomb exploded in Hyde Park, London. The explosion produced a scene of butchery, with dead and injured soldiers and horses strewn across a roadway through the park. The media images of this carnage were indelibly imprinted on my memory. The same day another bomb exploded under a bandstand in Regent Park killing another 7 soldiers and injured 22. The Middlesex hospital was just two miles down the road. I didn’t hear this bomb but I remember clearly the wails from the sirens of numerous ambulances attending the scene.

April 1993: Bishopsgate, London
An IRA van bomb at Bishopsgate in the City exploded doing a enormous amount of damage and killing a news reporter and injuring dozens. I had just moved back to London after spending a decade in California and was grimly reminded that London was an international battleground. Some of my colleagues at Barts who were on ER duty treated the victims. It was estimated that the bomb did £350 million worth of damage.

December 1993: Woking Railway Line, Surrey
A bomb planted by the IRA exploded on a railway track halting train services and delaying the journey to work for thousands of commuters. As a schoolboy in the 1960s I traveled this line every day for 6 years.

March 1994: Heathrow Airport
Heathrow Airport evacuated staff and passengers from Terminal Four and closed its southern runway after a second mortar attack on the airport in 30 hours. At least one shell landed on the roof of the terminal but didn’t explode. I had just left the building after meeting a friend who was en route to India.

February 1996: Docklands, London

The IRA ended its “ceasefire” with a massive truck bomb not far from the Canary Wharf office tower in east London’s Docklands area. Two men who worked in a newspaper kiosk were killed and over 100 more were injured. I was hosting a party in for my lab group in my flat that Friday evening. The bomb went off directly across the River Thames and I thought the blast was going to blow in my windows. Guest arriving at the party were delayed for several hours in the ensuing traffic chaos.

September 2001: New York
My cousin, Robert Eaton, working for Cantor Fitzgerald, loses his life along with along with nearly 3000 others when hi-jackers attack the twin Trade Towers.

Man’s inhumanity to man seems to know no bounds. Words fail me as I try to comprehend why violence becomes the first choice instead of the last resort in conflict resolution.

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