It was London’s time to thump its chest and raise its index finger skyward after being awarded the 2012 Olympic Games.
It was London’s time to chortle in private after beating out its red-faced, tongue-tied rival in Paris.
It was London’s time to have a long party and toasts all around, to dance and sing and let it all hang out, to bask in the glow of being the top dog on the international sports stage.
As Sebastian Coe, the former Olympic middle-distance champion who led London’s bid, said, “This is our moment.”
It was a moment cut short in the starkest manner possible after London became the new battleground of the war on terror yesterday, the target of a series of bombings that killed, maimed and injured commuters and paralyzed the city’s transit system.
Just like that, the terrorists changed the global mood and discourse, be it the news of the London Games in 2012 or the G-8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, or the preening Live 8 performers touting their humanity.
Just like that, the elation of London was supplanted by the horror of London.
The blasts remind anew that terror is the scourge of our times and we are at war, like it or not.
A relatively carefree week in the summer was overtaken by the sinking feelings of September 11, distant though London is from our shores, the contrast in 24 hours striking.
Before evil struck London, it was a week limited to debating the All-Star Game plans of Kenny Rogers and the employment prospects of Larry Brown, both low-grade subjects that entertain just enough.
It also was a week that revealed the huffiness of French President Jacques Chirac, whose Paris lost out to London.
It was Chirac who said of the British, “You can’t trust people who cook as badly as that.”
Such knee-slapping frivolity gave way to the grim-faced resolve of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the obligatory condemnation of the attacks from leaders around the world.
A sort of pause gripped the world, a numbness mixed with uneasiness that reduced everyday concerns down to nothing.
This, too, is one of the goals of the terrorists.
They take innocent lives and they take bits and pieces of those left behind, as we know only too well in the nation’s capital.
Our streets have become littered with Jersey barriers and surveillance cameras and cordoned-off thoroughfares and law-enforcement figures who consider the masses guilty until proven innocent.
Our streets indicate the terrorists already have won in part, as we relinquish our liberties and openness in incremental fashion.
As London sifted through the carnage, we reverted to an all-too-familiar drill.
The usual procession of armchair security experts hit the usual talk shows to state again that we are destined to be attacked again, not if, just when, and that the District and Manhattan, as always, remain at the head of the target list.
The District’s public transportation system reflected the anxiety, with beefed-up security forces and bomb-sniffing dogs.
The British delegation in Singapore, where the voting of the International Olympic Committee was held, was left to wrestle with the lowest of lows following the highest of highs.
A party intended to celebrate the delegation’s return to London was postponed.
Keith Mills, chief executive of London’s bid team, said, “I’m totally distraught.”
It is not known yet if the bombings were intended to upstage the G-8 summit or the Olympic announcement, the latter doubtful, considering Paris was the favorite.
Whatever the case, the terrorists crawled out from under their rocks and outwitted one of the most security-obsessed cities in the world, casting a pall over the hope of the G-8 summit and the Olympic joy of Great Britain.
The nut cases will get theirs one of these days, no doubt.
And in time, London can reacquaint itself with the party of 2012.