On the scene in London.

Notes from different corners of the world.
July 7 2005 8:55 AM

Dispatch From London

In the wake of the terrorist attacks.

Click image to expand.

A couple of blocks from Tavistock Square, where the double-decker bus was bombed a couple of hours before, I came across a small crowd gathered around a white truck. From a distance, it looked like another catastrophe, but as I approached I realized the bystanders were listening to the radio through the truck's open window. Tony Blair was speaking. I was too far away to hear it well, and I could only make out a few words. I heard "barbaric." I also heard "civilization."

David Plotz David Plotz
Slate Deputy Editor David Plotz is in London promoting his new book, The Genius Factory.

London is never quiet, but the blocks around Tavistock Square were spookily silent, except for the ambulances, which wailed by every minute or so. The cops shooed everyone away from the bus itself—it's out of sight, but TV images show it turned practically inside-out from the force of the explosion—so, knots of people gathered on the sidewalk, talking in low voices—the white-coated doctors from the nearby neurology institute, the Italian tourists.

Advertisement

I eavesdropped on some conversations—all variations of the same bits of half-knowledge and rumor:

"I heard there were six explosions."

"There was one bus explosion, and six on the tube."

"There were five bombs on the tube, and three on buses."

"There were 10 bombs."

There were two witnesses outside Dean's Brasserie, and journalists mobbed them. One, a teenage girl, sobbed so hard that she couldn't speak. The other, a young Italian scientist named Lorenzo Pia, described how he and his neighbors brought sheets out to the street to wrap the wounded from the bus. He said he saw lots of bodies.

I was arriving at a BBC radio studio at around 9:30 a.m. when the first news came in—a train derailment or an electrical problem. I was supposed to be a guest on a morning talk show, and the producer who greeted me asked me to wait a few minutes while they sorted out what was happening: It was probably a transformer problem, he said. A couple of minutes later, the newsroom erupted in a frenzy. Reports began flooding in—the entire London Underground was shut down. An explosion at Aldgate tube station. Another one at Paddington. Then the reports of the bus bombing. A few injuries. Thirty injuries. Two dead, then 20 dead.

This has been an extraordinary 24 hours for London. Yesterday afternoon, the International Olympic Committee awarded London the 2012 Summer Games. I was in Trafalgar Square when the announcement came, and the place went crazy. There was shouting and hugging and dancing. It seemed somehow bizarre. It seemed very ... un-English.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.