Saturday, July 09, 2005


I was disembarking at Heathrow the day New York burned.

I was in London to continue my studies in the final year, and I had my parents and my sister accompanying me — sending me off, they said, and let my sister see the city they called home for four years or so. Our first indication that there was something foul afoot in New York was this old lady behind us, who said that there was terrible news — someone had blown up the Empire State Building!

We thought she was nuts.

Four years, one failed and one successful attempt in getting a degree later, and I'm in Malaysia, on my way home from work, when the news breaks. Someone's blown up London.

It was terrifying. I really hate to admit this, but for two years, London was home to me. A wet, miserable, overpriced-but-grotty (I lived in North-East London, which explains everything) home, but home. I remembered my time there — not too many pleasant memories, but I made friends there.

Jennifer and I were close buddies, when I was in London. She drank like a fish, and thought me the differences between whiskey and whisky, between Americans and the yankees. She was from the South; I was from KL. She was a Republican, and thought Bush was doing the right thing. I was (and still am) a liberal, and thought Bush was a sub-sapient idiot.

We got along fine. And here I was, trying to call her.

She was the only person I kept in touch with after leaving London. But she wasn't the only one I remember. There was Socrates, my landlord — a sleazy Greek guy, but good and relatively honest. Adonis the kosher deli owner, at Oakwood. I don't think he knew I was Muslim; he just thought I was some crazy Asian guy who came in for the salt beef sandwiches he made (and they were great, I swear). Stratos, who shared the house with Gemma and I for six months, and probably going through London's gay population, making both me and Gemma somewhat jealous. He got more action than we both did, combined.

For two years, I lived in London, half-afraid of telling the world I was Muslim, not after what happened in New York, and the backlash. I shouldn't have worried, not after the way London's religious communities stood together after the attack. You only learn these things in hindsight, I suppose.

I remember falling down the stairs and smashing my arm through a glass door — and being rushed to the hospital, which was understaffed, and overcrowded. I remember the doctor looking at my wound and asking if I needed more local anaesthetic. I said, no, I was fine. I still have the scars. I remember Gemma wanting to scold me for using her bath rag to wipe tomato juice, until she found out it wasn't tomato juice, and didn't seem to mind when I apologized for bleeding over her coat.

Poor Gemma. I don't have her number, but I hope she's all right.

In some ways I'm proud of London, for what they're doing. I'm proud of what Ken Livingstone said, that this wasn't an attack towards the rich and powerful, but an assault on the working-class. I'm proud that London didn't flip out and lose it. I had forgotten that it had survived the Blitz and bombings in the IRA. I suppose flipping out is the American thing to do.

It's all in hindsight, but I'm glad I lived in London. And as sad and upset I am about the attacks, I'm happy to see that Londoners are coming together, not apart, after the attacks.

I don't need to talk about the people who were responsible for this. We know what they are. We know what they want. I sincerely doubt they'll get it. Their kind will be dead in a hundred years, and very possibly forgotten. They're monsters. Monsters and demons come and go.

People stay.

Blogger Jordan F. MacVay said...


5:27 PM  
Blogger Pak Idrus said...

Great, just like me when I was your age...I am enjoying life now because I was free in my youth..take care.

11:10 PM  

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