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Wednesday, 8 July 2015

The spectacle and the reality and the outcome

What looking back at the London bombings of 7/7 does for me is remind me how fast time flies more than anything else, although of course it was a tragedy in which so many people suffered terrible things. But it also reminds me that sometimes it takes a while before events completely play themselves out in all the ways that are likely to eventuate. I was also in 2005 recovering from my own tragedy and suffering in my own way, and this probably served to enable me to contextualise the disaster and to assimilate it more effectively than some others might have been able to.

I was living at the time in a share house owned by the local area health service, although within six months I would have moved out of it into an apartment that I bought myself on money borrowed from a financial institution. The disaster I was recovering from was a complete mental breakdown in 2000 accompanied by paranoid psychosis. It was taking years to get back on my feet. I eventually got a new job back in Australia - the disaster itself happened while I was living in Japan, which only made it that much worse - in 2003, two years almost to the day before the bombings occurred. By 2005 I had settled into the job - which involved mainly HTML coding but also some technical writing - and was about to be moved from employment on a short-term contract basis to employment on a "continuing" contract basis with the same institution. It was this change that would set me off toward getting the housing loan and buying the apartment.

For the moment, however, I was situated off the main road between Parramatta and Hornsby in a four-bedroom house on a quiet street surrounded by huge gum trees. The other three bedrooms in the house were occupied by young men also with mental problems and it was a sort of daily struggle to match those conditions with what I considered to be my reasonable expectations. There were arguments about tidying up the kitchen, for example, and about keeping the coffee table reasonably clean. It wasn't a lot of fun in retrospect although there was occasional camerarderie among people similarly afflicted. I even loaned the purchase price of a small family car to one of my housemates, on the understanding that it would be paid back in regular installments. I believe that it was, but I can't be sure.

When the London bombings started to appear on the TV as news it was as information that dribbled in slowly, starting I think during the nightly 7pm news broadcast as a report that there had been some sort of problem in the underground train system in London. It might have been during another scheduled program that was interrupted for the purpose of transmitting breaking news, I can't remember. I only know that at first it was unclear what had happened. The full story only came out after the whole thing had been seen to by the local authorities. We gathered in the living room to watch the TV.

Years previously I had arrived in Australia on a plane almost on the same day that the Twin Towers had been hit in that more famous attack. But in this new case the lack of a single, striking image made the events appear more mundane, even more prosaic. In London most of the destruction had happened in tunnels dug under the city in any case. We really only had the image of the bus with its roof ripped off to explain all the excitement the events generated in the public sphere. Stories of backpacks, of four young homegrown terrorists would only come out later. For the moment there was just the disarray of routine disaster, another attack that should have been prevented. I would have moved out of my new apartment to another one in southeast Queensland before people started thinking in detail about the ramifications of the disaster in terms of civil liberties. In 2005 the whole story had very much not played itself out completely. That would take years.

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