London is on my mind today. Just one day after being awarded the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, London was rocked by multiple blasts killing dozens and injuring many more. My thoughts and prayers go out to those who were affected, especially to the families of those who perished. I heard that my colleagues in London are safe. Many of them are in Scotland at the G8 Summit. Both President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair were in Gleneagles, Scotland for the Summit at the time of the blasts.
I was in London in March 2003 when the Iraq War began, staying downtown an earshot from the Parliament Building. I went there on an MBA study tour sponsored by the University of Washington. Our tour was almost cancelled due to the impending war and the threat of terrorism. I remember seeing scattered war protests in Westminster Square, Trafalgar Square, and Piccadilly Circus. The British media at the time spoke of thousands of protests converging on London on the eve of the war, although I only saw a few hundred in the streets. I was particularly attuned to what was happening because I understood the gravity of being in the heart of Great Britain, one of the major powers involved with the invasion of Iraq, when the war started. Tensions were very high in the city and among the members of our tour, because we held a variety of opinions about the war. I remember watching broadcasts of BBC television in my hotel room showing footage unfold as the invasion of Iraq began, from the bombing of Saddam Hussein’s suspected hideout to the ubiquitous shots of the night sky over Baghdad filled with sorties and artillery shots, illuminated by greenish infrared. One television program that stands out in my mind now is a BBC documentary I watched at the time discussing the potential terrorist threat to London. Today that threat was realized. The documentary discussed potential terrorist targets and what British authorities were doing to counteract terrorism. While the authorities had done much to prepare London for a terrorist attack, the program concluded that because London is such a large metropolis with a concentrated population, it could never be completely immune from terrorism. London’s transportation system, particularly Heathrow Airport and the Tube (subway), is especially vulnerable to attack. London has had a long history of bombings largely sponsored by the Irish Republican Army. The IRA has been quiet in London for several years. Today’s tragedy was one of the first large-scale attacks on British soil claimed by a group affiliated with Al Qaeda. What happened today is not a repeat of 9/11, when 1,962 people perished in the destruction of New York’s World Trade Center. Still, what happened today in London reminds us to be vigilent against terrorism. It can happen anywhere, at any time. For me personally, today’s bombing reminds me of that time not so long ago when the war began. It seems that the war is far from over.