42 Days

By Rachel North

7/7/05: The Westbound Piccadilly line train was at crush capacity as it pulled away from Kings Cross. To travel on it was to be uncomfortably intimate with strangers; to feel the warmth of their backs, bellies, shoulders pressed into your own body, the smell of rain-damp clothing, the prod of elbows, umbrellas, bump of handbags and rucksacks. When you are so close to your fellow passengers that you can feel their breath on your cheek, it is considered polite not to meet their eyes.

Perhaps that was how he was able to do it; the nineteen year old man with the home-made bomb held close to his body. Perhaps he did not look at the faces of the men and women around him as he set off the detonator.

We will never know because the 26 people closest to him were killed.

The acts which we call most evil are those which display a pitiless lack of empathy towards fellow-humans. In the wake of such acts, anger, outrage and fear follow our shock.

Terrorism is the dark art of wielding fear as a political weapon. To provoke a horrified reaction, to seed fear and hatred and division is the goal of the bomber. He harnesses our nightmares and uses them against us. It gives him power when we deem him our terrible enemy and demand the government respond.

But the unspoken truth is that it is not possible to keep us safe. There is no legislation that can protect us from the man who moves amongst us with a bomb on his back and hate in his heart.

Even if every man and woman and child is watched over and monitored every moment of every day. Even if every conversation, every email, every transaction is recorded; if armed police and sniffer dogs travel on every bus and train and stand guard outside pubs and schools and shops and stadiums. It still would not keep us safe.

Accepting this is hard but it is the price of our freedom.

We walk out of our homes and into the world every day as free men and women. We are protected by ancient liberties that thousands have died to protect. They are to be cherished as much in the age of the suicide bomber as in the age of the threatened enemy invasion.

To give them up is to let terrorists win.