Following the bomb that went off in Oslo, I decided to write down my experiences of terror.
During my time as a student in London there were 15 bombs or left packages left either by the IRA or by middle east terrorists. I lived there from 1992 to 1996. There were some huge explosions and many people died, but 99.999% of the population were safe. I always checked in at home after an explosion, calling my mum from a phone that was attached to the wall via a cable! I never really understood the worry she would face but now I have my children I get it at last.
The first bomb I heard was during my first year at Imperial College. I was asleep in student halls in South Kensington (actually they were in Westminster but I’m being picky!). I woke to the sound of a blast of thunder and I turned sides. When I became a little more conscious I realised it was sunny outside and so the noise must have been a bomb. I mentally shrugged and then went back to sleep. I don’t know what time I then woke up but I remember not being really bothered by the bomb. Fortunately no one was injured or killed. Those sort of things happened. It was 10th January 1992.
The second bomb I heard was more of a shock. By this time I was working for the students’ union of Imperial College and we had offices in the Beit building. There had been a fire alarm and so we were gathered in the quadrangle waiting for the all clear when there was a very loud boom. I knew it was a big bomb and quite close. I was worried about people and hoped that help would arrive. I also knew there was nothing I could do. There would be many people gathering to help. Some other members of the student union staff were visibly shocked and moved by the bomb. This time it was a big car bomb planted by someone from the middle east as they had just blown up the Israeli embassy. 20 people were injured and there was a lot of damage. It was 26 July 1994.
These days it seems we are more worried about terrorism without having the terrorism. It bothers me that we have lots of hype from the press and the government. The rigmarole we go through to get on a plane or visit a tourist attraction bothers me. The data show that no threats have been beaten through these security measures, the plots that have been stopped were caught by old fashioned police and intelligence work.
Time to get real on terrorism I think. Yes, there is a threat, but there always has been. We are a global power and so will always face having to deal with disgruntled people.