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Osgerby: A terrorist target, and my transportation

BY PAUL OSGERBY | SEPTEMBER 25, 2014 5:00 AM

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Osgerby is studying abroad at City University in Londan, England

As I rode the lift down from the Heathrow terminal to the London Underground for the first time, I was crowded into a small elevator with my one bag of luggage and messenger bag. Among the dozen people, I heard three foreign languages. I could recognize one as some sort of Serbo-Croatian.

Despite our language barriers, there was one thing I knew that was on each of our minds: get to the Picadilly platform before everyone else. Precious seats with additional luggage space next to exit doors were at a premium.

We were all prepared for the hour-or-so long ride into Central London to avoid exorbitant “express” taxi fares — a calculated decision.

It was inevitable when we reached ‘Zone 1’ on the train ride, our bodies would be so uncomfortably close that we were no longer just acquaintances with the neighbors beside us.

I was en route from Heathrow to the King’s Cross-St. Pancras station, a major Underground station connecting six different rail lines as well as linking to numerous National Railway services.

In 1897, the London Underground was the first officially opened subway metro in the world, and it is the 12th most frequently used in the world. Locals colloquially call it ‘The Tube.”

Over 3 million passengers use the massive subway system on a daily basis, consisting of 11 rail lines operating within nine different Zones. The innermost zone, Zone 1, facilitates within what is known as The City of London.

On July 7, 2005, the day after it was announced that London would host the 2012 Summer Olympics, Islamic extremists coordinated four attacks on the city’s public transportation network.

Three bombs detonated in the Underground, and one on a bus.

Fifty six people were killed and approximately 700 were injured on what is now called “7/7.” The three Underground bombings occurred within eight minutes of leaving the King’s Cross St.-Pancras tube station, which is two blocks away from my residence hall.

Breathing room in the train car seemed to become more and more constricted as the train my stop neared. I kept thinking of the mixed messages from friends and family in response to the UK’s rise in the terror threat level from “substantial” to “severe,” the second highest ranking of five, during the weeks leading to my departure.

“Don’t ride the tube too often.”

“It’s just fear-mongering politics.”

The difference recognized between the “severe” and “critical” ranking is that UK intelligence believes there is substantial evidence for an imminent attack. Prime Minister David Cameron stated on Aug. 29th that the increase in the threat level was a response to over 500 people leaving the country to fight alongside the ISIS.

In the past month, Australia has also raised its terror threat level. However, the United States has not despite increased militarization in the Middle East.

UK officials have only raised to the “critical” level twice: once in 2006 when liquid bombs were discovered at airliners, and in 2007 where extremists attempted to bomb London’s West End and a Glasgow airport. During the 7/7 bombings, the UK’s Terror Threat level was not made public.
Civic tragedies seem to inevitably lead people and pundits alike to question our faith in the government, and sometimes even neighbors. Yet, after a period of grief and distillation (and perhaps out of necessity) those living in globally influential cities must return their daily routines.

Now, as I continue to ride the tube from King’s Cross-St. Pancras every day, these anxieties are pushed to the back of my mind.


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