- The Washington Times - Monday, October 22, 2001

LONDON Across Britain, millions of ordinary families have reported experiencing severe personal trauma over the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, almost as if they had occurred in their own cities.
Researchers for the governing Labor Party, trying to identify the political effects of the tragedy, said the people they interviewed kept talking about recurring nightmares, children and women crying, and men in deep shock.
Many told the researchers they felt as if they were present in New York on Sept. 11 and their own child was jumping from a window.
The country's mood darkened even more when a spokesman for fugitive Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network made specific threats this month against Britain and Prime Minister Tony Blair for being America's closest ally in the war against terrorism.
Ripples of fear from the American anthrax attacks have also reached Britain. Last week, suspect packages were discovered in London and Liverpool, also in Scotland and Belfast. Buildings were evacuated, hundreds of workers decontaminated and substances analyzed.
All the scares were determined to be false alarms or hoaxes, but they have put emergency services under so much strain that Home Secretary David Blunkett warned he will amend legislation to punish hoaxers with up to seven years in jail.
Since taking part in the bombing of Afghanistan, Britain has been on high alert. Security has been increased all over the country; in London, armed police have been stationed at government buildings, landmarks, skyscrapers, as well as main rail and subway stations, and airports.
Across the country, doctors and hospital staff have received guidelines on how to identify and treat not just anthrax, but diseases such as bubonic plague, smallpox and botulism. Pharmaceutical companies have been asked to increase their production of antibiotics and vaccines to ensure the country will have sufficient stocks.
Amid a growing sense of dread engulfing the country, Health Secretary Alan Milburn, in a recent speech to Parliament, urged people to "remain calm and go about their normal lives."
And so far, that's what the British have been doing. Their fear hasn't tipped over into panic. Most people have remained calm, and very few have rushed to buy gas masks or stock up on antibiotics as some Americans have.
"People are aware of the threat, but they try to push it at the back of their mind," said Tanya Lewis, a financial worker and mother of two small children who still goes to her office, which is located in a tall building. "But if it gets any worst, I think many people, especially mothers, won't want to go to the city," she added, referring to London's central financial district.
Most Britons believe their country is more likely to be a target for terrorist attacks because of its prominent role in the military campaign, and many are worried that terrorists will retaliate with chemical and biological weapons, according to a recent MORI poll for ITV network.
Despite that anxiety, the same survey showed 72 percent supported Mr. Blair for his handling of the crisis, and almost 50 percent of those polled said they would be willing to pay higher taxes to finance military action.
Political observer Libby Purves wrote in the Times of London: "While fearing retaliation, unlike the more panicky Americans, the British were calm about the risks, less afraid of flying; having lived with years of [Irish Republican Army] atrocities, they were well-used to sizing up the long odds on being in the wrong place at the wrong time."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide