April 17, 1984, was the first full day of my first visit to London. My pal and I were near St James Square, just wandering around, pretty jet-laggedy stupid. I was finding the noise really quite jarring, then it seemed to jump up several zillion decibels. Sirens.
We didn't know at the time but the Libyan Embassy Siege had begun a couple streets from where we were.
In minutes, it seemed, helicopters were hovering and loud-speakers were telling people to get off the rooftops.
And the sirens wailed.
My pal was excited and wanted to hang around. Me, I was thinking IRA, as was no doubt just about everyone. I said: 'I'd like to go home with all my limbs. Let's get out of here.'
Later, in our B&B, we learned what had happened and what would continue over our entire visit.
People talked about it, it was covered extensively on telly and in the newspapers, but it didn't stop anything. Brits were a bit more exercised about this event because a London bobby -- a female bobby -- had been killed, but otherwise, it was business as usual.
Dumbass tourists like us continued wandering around the city, visiting museums and churches and galleries. We took a Thames River boat trip, went to a West End play. We bought tourist crap and ate the amazingly awful food. (Meals usually went like this: 'Taste this.' 'What is it?' 'Who the hell knows? That's why I want you to taste it.')
In other words, we had a totally normal London visit, except for the siege bit going on in a corner of Belgravia.
I don't mean to glamourize the British stiff upper lip, but really. This past week, USians have given terrorists and trouble-makers in general a text-book lesson on how to paralyze a city.
And isn't it telling that the Boston suspect was found after the 'shelter in place' order was lifted and a resident went out into his backyard to have a smoke and noticed blood on the outside of his boat?
Acting normally is what nabbed the guy.
But. Whatever. Carry on.
BONUS: Thoughtful piece on USians going insane over terrorism but finding 'normal' gun violence perfectly okey-dokey.