Fourteen years ago in London, terrorists tried to kill me.
There was nothing personal about it, mind you; they were literally trying to kill anybody at the time. It was February of 1991, during the thick of the Gulf War, and I was a visiting student at Oxford. On the morning of the 15th, I had planned to catch the early train to Victoria Station for a London day trip, but thanks to spending the previous evening out on the town (I have a vague memory of doing shots with a couple of Californians at an after-hours nightclub), I was slow getting out of bed and missed the train.
That hangover might have saved my life. During the thick of that morning’s rush hour, a bomb went off in a Victoria Station garbage can, killing one man and injuring 40 others. Because of the world situation, everybody’s immediate first thought was, “Arab terrorists,” but the bomb turned out to have been planted by the IRA, which had tried to murder Prime Minister John Major and his cabinet in a mortar attack on Downing Street just eleven days earlier.
The Victoria Station bombing had an unexpected effect on me and the other students, and that counts for both the Brits and the Americans. After the Downing Street attack, there was a lot of nervousness and quiet talk about keeping a low profile and avoiding possible terrorist target locations.
After Victoria, though, everything changed. The shift was remarkable and consistent from the most bleeding-heart New York Chomskyites (one of my roommates) to the most reactionary Southern right-wingers (er, me): everybody got mad. To an individual, the reaction was, “I’ll be damned if I let these barbarians make me change my plans, or my mind, or my life.”
I fully expect to see the same reaction out of Britain after today (it’s already started, in fact; check out the fire-breathing denunciation from London Mayor “Red Ken” Livingstone), and woe betide the Islamofascists who’ve been hiding in plain sight in their midst until now.