Living Nightly With Terror
By IVOR DAVIS
Having been born in England, I have lived with all those emotions before. In the early ‘40s in the East End of London, we lived for years with the always-present threat of bombs landing on our home. I was a child during The Blitz when we were at war with Hitler.
Every night our parents took us to sleep in the bomb shelters we had built in our garden. Even today the smell of paraffin reminds me of those frightening nights in our shelter bunks.
My father, a baker, was often up at 4 or 5 in the morning and I would sometimes get up with him. We would leave the shelter and sit together in our back garden and watch as Hitler’s pilotless VI bombs flew across the night sky.
Buzz bombs blitz blimeys
E called them "buzz bombs" because when their buzz stopped, indicating they had run out of fuel, they would fall to earth and destroy everything underneath. Hundreds of those bombs penetrated the British defense coastal guns and wreaked terrible havoc in our capital.
Many a day we would get up and find a house in our street burned to rubble. Our playground became bombed out buildings where we went treasure hunting.
Remember that scene in John Boorman’s excellent World War II film, Hope and Glory, where the kids searched for souvenirs—chunks of shrapnel after a night of bombing? We were those kids.
It may be difficult to believe, but nightly bombings became a way of life.
What reminded me of my early years in war-torn London was seeing President Bush touring Ground Zero on Friday in the devastated World Trade Center on the tip of Manhattan Island.
It recalled for me the King and Queen of England, walking through the rubble of bombed out London. They remained in Buckingham Palace during the worst of the attacks some 60 years ago.
Sun shines on left coast
HAVE made my home in America on the West Coast for the past 40 years. The sun has shone. The living has been easy. I have felt very safe.
When the subject came up, it was always difficult for me to explain the fear and worry we experienced during the worst of the blitz. What could Americans know of civilians going to bed at night in concrete bunkers, not knowing if their homes would still be standing in the morning?
Living in Southern California, we go through the regular earthquakes, fires and mudslides. But forces of nature everyone understands. Deliberate devices designed by man to destroy man are something else entirely.
Now alas, after the diabolical carnage of September 11, everything has changed—and I do not have to explain anymore. America has lost her innocence. Nothing will ever be the same again.
I see around me my fellow Californians trying to cope with the aftermath and the implications of these heinous acts of terrorism. It happened 3,000 miles away—but it might as well have been in our own backyards.
Like many, I have talked and been in touch with friends and families around the world.
Solidarity with America
Y email has been deluged with messages from friends in Australia, Canada, Great Britain and Europe wishing us well, declaring their sympathy and solidarity with America.
In London, however, my brother tells me the attack on America has also produced a wave of hate and resentment from many of the have-nots from third world countries currently living in London for whom America is "the Great Satan."
These people actually try to justify the carnage with the attitude, "America had it coming to them."
The BBC came under attack for a program in which a former American Ambassador was drowned out by a mob screaming hate against America—this despite that fact that over 100 British citizens perished in the bombing of the Twin Towers and that the vast majority of the British public from the Queen down are decidedly pro-American.
Hiding in the shadows
HE comparisons of shattered Manhattan with bombed-out London only go so far however. In England in the ‘40s we knew who the enemy was. In the United States in the fall of 200l it is hard to pinpoint how wide the tentacles of our suicidal enemies are, however clearly the evidence may seem to point to one man.
City in Pain
As President Bush pointed out, terrorists hide in the shadows seeking aid and comfort under the skirts of whichever sympathetic Third World governments they can find.
How much worse than the bombs of the Third Reich is the fact that this terror and destruction has come in a very real way from within America, from terrorists who lived among us, who were our neighbors, maybe even our friends. "Nice normal guys," one neighbor described them.
How can you explain the mind-think of someone who spends two years planning mass murder and suicide?
That openness, the naiveté, the up front “what you see is what you get” nature of most Americans is part of what makes America great. It’s also its Achilles heel.
As a journalist who has covered the American scene for decades, I continue to marvel at the access the media has to the top levels of government, the judiciary, the arts. This openness is duplicated in no other country on earth.
T’S the flip side of the insularity of some Americans: Their ignorance of what goes on outside their borders is amazing – some high school students, sometimes even college graduates, can’t tell the difference between Austria and Australia, Denmark and Holland.
In such an atmosphere is it no surprise that a bunch of suicidal fanatics from the Middle East lived in Florida, Arizona, New Jersey and San Diego, were trained by some of our best experts and enjoyed our food, hospitality and our enviable lifestyle.
Besides the death and the awful destruction, something else galls. They took our very own jet planes and turned them into weapons of mass destruction. They spat in their host’s face.
And they managed to do it because this is a nation that prides itself on the protection of each individual’s human rights—no matter their opinion or lunatic beliefs.
It is this very openness, this belief in absolute democracy, the equality of men and women, the absolute right of every person to worship their idea of God as they see fit, to express their ideas as they believe them, however unpopular, their right to the presumption of innocence and due process: It is for all these things, so diametrically opposed to everything they believe, that this new and most dangerous enemy hates us.
Ivor Davis and East End pals.
Even if there had never been a State of Israel, we would still represent The Great Satan to the fundamentalists of this world who want to return us all to the 2nd century.
If what has happened to America, if the act of barbarians changes the nature of American society to the point where the freedoms that make us Americans are threatened, those barbarians will have won a victory more profound than anything they could achieve in battle.
Defending our shores
O we will protect our freedoms at home with a constant vigilance while defending our shores with every weapon, physical and moral, we have at our disposal.
And for those in the “turn the other cheek, make nice to them and they won’t do it again” school of appeasement who bombarded the internet, I return to that shelter in the bottom of our London garden.
Those nights, listening to the buzz of the V1’s followed an infamous letter waived by an equally infamous British Prime Minister returning from a meeting with "Herr Hitler" falsely promising, "Peace in our Time".
That Prime Minister lost his job to Winston Churchill whose contrary message should resonate around America today: "Appeasement," Churchill declared emphatically, "is feeding the crocodile in the hope that he’ll eat you last. "
Equally apposite are the words of George Santana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."