Sunday, July 01, 2007

Americans abroad

Our plans for today weren't too elaborate; we were going to head over to Selfridges for some good, old fashioned browsing. Paul needs new shoes, I have a couple of birthday gifts to pick up and we've both been keen to check out the shopping monolith's legendary food hall. We'd make a day of it, we figured.

But last night, as we watched coverage of the latest foiled terrorist attacks here in the UK and listened to the new prime minister urge the British people to be vigilant, I turned to Paul. "I'm not so sure I want to take the tube tomorrow," I said hesitantly. I was surprised at how quickly he agreed. "Yeah, I was just thinking a big department store might not be such a great destination for us," he replied.

Paul and I were in New York on September 11 and we returned resolutely to the city each day in the frightening days and weeks that followed. When anthrax was found in my office building less than a month later, I squared my shoulders, rubbed my pregnant belly for luck, got in line with my NBC colleagues for a nasal swab and then went back to work. Paul flew to London on business just days after the July 2005 tube bombings and we did not change our travel plans when a foiled terrorist plot at Heathrow wreaked havoc on the airline industry shortly before we were scheduled to move to the UK last year. We have never been the types to let the threat of terrorism stand in the way of anything we want or need to do.

So what gives now? Is it the fact that the British threat level label of "critical" just sounds more ominous than the American color-coded levels? Does an admonition delivered calmly by a British accented television presenter carry more weight than one proclaimed by a shrill-voiced American reporter? Is the fact that parts of this city are still confusingly unfamiliar to me the reason that I feel less comfortable venturing out into streets where a car bomb could be lurking? Do I feel, as an American here in London, like there is a double target on my head? Or am I just a little more sensible and a little more protective of my family's safety and well being these days? There's really no reason we have to go to Selfridges today. "Something to do" hardly seems worth risking bodily harm...

"We will not yield, we will not be intimidated, and we will not allow anyone to undermine our British way of life," Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in a BBC-televised statement last night. As his rah-rah speech came to a close, I sighed. "That's all well and good," I told Paul as he flipped through the channels in search of something a bit more entertaining, "but we are not British. We are American. And instead of maintaining a stiff upper lip and continuing on my merry way, I plan to cower like a yellow bellied fish."

We're going to have a Monopoly Junior tournament here today and gorge ourselves on the peanut butter cookies I baked with the kids yesterday. Perhaps later, we'll check out some local shops and see if we can locate the items we need without venturing too far from home. It's a stopgap solution; tomorrow, Paul will board the tube as usual for his commute to work and the kids and I will resume our weekday schedule of school and activities. But for today, it's comforting to stay close to home. Do I feel silly for letting this all get to me? A bit. But if what we get out of our nervousness is a quiet day of family togetherness? Well, one could hardly say the terrorists have robbed us of anything at all.

8 Comments:

Blogger Mary said...

I don't blame you one bit, Rebecca. Considering my first instinct would be to start packing and buy plane tickets home immediately I don't think there's any shame in spending a day close to the flat.

7:31 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

Well you've answered my wonderings in fine form! Playing monopoly jr for a day then carrying on with life come Monday? Sounds good to me. :-)

7:43 PM  
Blogger Iota said...

Selfridges is vastly over-rated. You have to walk miles and miles to get from department to department, and it's badly signed. The Food Hall is really nothing special. Wait till December, and then go and look at their window displays, which are worth the trip. For now, Monopoly Junior is a much better bet.

2:53 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

My theory is that a plane-bomb and a car-bomb are two different things. After 9/11, no one really expected that to happen again. However, car bombs are altogether too common, too easy to miss, and too easy to accomplish on the part of the terrorist. So what you're feeling makes perfect sense to me.

3:04 AM  
Blogger jeanbubba said...

Yipee...I found someone who is in my boat. I love your blog and share many of your same thoughts and experiences!

fellow expat NY'r with 2 young kids in London! Jeanine

4:14 PM  
Blogger Liesl said...

I was wondering how y'all were doing with all this going on. I'm glad you stayed home. Groceries can wait. Just hang in there :)

3:10 AM  
Blogger Gina said...

I wondered about you this week and have only recently been able to drag my sick, pregnant butt to the computer to check on you. {{{hugs}}}

12:56 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Nope, you weren't robbed of a thing. And you weren't yellow-bellied either. There is nothing wrong with a cozy family day at home when it feels right. In fact, I'd say everything about your re-arranged day sounds just about right.

3:59 AM  

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