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Londoners, Strengthened by History, Rebound


Within 24 hours of the attacks, Londoners did what they do best: They got on with it. People returned to their regular lives. Many even took the subway. Londoners seem determined not to be cowed by Thursday's events, and their pluck and stoicism in the face of terrorism is beginning to take a place in this city's history. Eleanor Beardsley reports.


The London bombing came just as the city is commemorating the 60th anniversary of the ending of World War II. In St. James' Park, where dozens of exhibits have been set up to show how the country fought the Second World War on the home front, air-raid sirens went off to simulate conditions during the London Blitz. Keith Brigstock(ph), dressed as a 1940s air-raid warden, is taking part in the re-enactment. He says Londoners have never been one to let a few bombs or terrorist attacks dictate the way they live.

Mr. KEITH BRIGSTOCK (Londoner): I mean, we've had it with the IRA, we had it with the Second World War, we've had it in this country for a while. We're not immune to it, but people sort of get up, brush themselves off and say, `Right. No. I'm not going to let this affect me. We're going to do it.' And we get on with it.

BEARDSLEY: The morning talk shows were filled with accounts of Londoners helping each other during Thursday's terrorist attacks.

Unidentified Man #1: This country is at war.

BEARDSLEY: TV specials in the evening focused on Britain during World War II. Both spoke of the city of London's resilient character.

Unidentified Man #1: ...faithfully into the unknown...

BEARDSLEY: Even young people who had never known the Nazis or the IRA carried on with their activities as if it was their duty to uphold the city's image of itself.

(Soundbite of sirens)

BEARDSLEY: Despite the constant wail of police sirens, 30-year-old Tina Robbins(ph) enjoyed a game of soccer with her husband, mother and nine-year-old son in St. James' Park.

(Soundbite of soccer game)

BEARDSLEY: Robbins talked about why it was important for Londoners to go about their daily lives so soon after the disaster.

Ms. TINA ROBBINS (Londoner): Well, the only way we can explain it really is we've had grandparents that have fought for the freedom of the country. And we're always talking to them about the Second World War and we know a lot about it, and we just want to carry on that sort of resilience and, you know, that right to be free. And I think the best way to do it is to get on with it and, you know, get your kids out in the park and start playing and get on with your normal life and get on the public transports. So...

BEARDSLEY: Although people are angry about the terrorist attacks, the only place you hear real blame for the government so far is on the editorial pages of some newspapers where a number of commentators draw a link between the attacks and the British government's support for US policy in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ronald Wall(ph) and Erica Moore(ph), who are sitting out a sidewalk bar, say they protested the government's involvement in Iraq three years ago, but that it's too late to be angry now.

Mr. RONALD WALL (Londoner): Well, they'd already done Madrid, who was also in Iraq, then it was our turn.

Ms. ERICA MOORE (Londoner): I think that we're probably going to see more of these kind of things. Nobody can protect themselves against it.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Man #2: (Singing) ...under this candlelight every...

BEARDSLEY: Back in St. James' Park, 80-year-old Richard Actin(ph) is reliving his memories of the Second World War. Actin, who lived in London during the Blitz, says Londoners then and now reacted in the same way.

Mr. RICHARD ACTIN (Londoner): They take it on the chin and get on with what they've got to do. They don't sit down and moan about it. And they did much the same in the Blitz.

BEARDSLEY: London might be a much more cosmopolitan city than it was 65 years ago, said one commentator, but the spirit of the city hasn't changed. `London imposes its character on those who live here,' he said. `It's a matter of London pride.' For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.