TRUE BRIT!

Shaun Proulx on how the English han­dle ter­ror threats — daily.

24 Hours Toronto - - Front page - SHAUN PROULX

LON­DON — The an­niver­sary of the 9/11 ter­ror­ist at­tacks were duly noted in count­less ways this week. North Amer­i­cans re­main shocked and sad­dened 16 years af­ter that ter­ri­ble day.

Not ex­actly the case in Lon­don, Eng­land (where I’m sta­tioned for a cou­ple of weeks, shoot­ing a project.) In Bri­tain, they’ve moved on.

Since I was here in April, there has been a ter­ror­ist bomb­ing of an Ari­ana Grande con­cert in Manch­ester, and the Lon­don Bridge/Bor­ough Mar­ket van /stab­bing at­tacks.

Res­i­dents are used to liv­ing on per­ma­nent high alert. The threat and ex­e­cu­tion of ter­ror is as com­mon as the English rain.

When I was a lit­tle boy — and then a teen — vis­it­ing fam­ily, on­go­ing at­tacks by the Ir­ish Repub­li­can Army in Lon­don meant you didn’t toss garbage into lit­ter bins, you sim­ply dropped it where you were; garbage cans make ex­cel­lent bomb bas­kets. Mail­boxes don’t open wide enough to take small parcels, as Canada’s do, for sim­i­lar rea­sons.

Z Ho­tel, in Cen­tral Lon­don’s Soho, where I’m writ­ing this, is mere me­tres away from the famed Ad­mi­ral Dun­can, in which I or­dered a pint of Guin­ness on Fri­day, April 30th, 1999, at 6:30 pm. I was 31. Packed solid at the start of a bank hol­i­day week­end here, I hoped badly to hear Armand Van Helden’s You Don’t Even Know

Me, a mas­sive hit across Europe, on my fi­nal night be­fore fly­ing to Toronto next day.

But, when my gut sud­denly im­plored that stay­ing meant I wouldn’t hear Van Helden, the sen­sa­tion was so pow­er­ful I im­me­di­ately left, beer un­touched.

At 6:37 pm, I was up the street in an­other gay bar when the nail bomb planted in­side the Ad­mi­ral Dun­can by a neo-Nazi ex­ploded, hurl­ing glass and de­bris into the street, killing three peo­ple in­clud­ing a preg­nant woman, and se­ri­ously in­jur­ing nearly 100 oth­ers. The im­me­di­ate area was a war zone, peo­ple ly­ing ev­ery­where, burned, un­con­scious, se­ri­ously wounded.

Canada’s turn is im­mi­nent, though Cana­dian-born, Lon­don-based fi­nancier Bon­nie Hughes ar­gues 9/11 was ba­si­cally on our soil.

“New York City is 90 min­utes by plane. 9/11 was not an at­tack on Canada — but what’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween a neigh­bour’s back­yard and ours, ex­cept a fence?” Hughes, 49, said.

She has lived in Lon­don for six years, and is one of sev­eral Lon­don­ers I in­ter­viewed about liv­ing in a world where ter­ror­ism is a daily re­al­ity, where Un­der­ground users are reg­u­larly re­minded about sus­pi­cious pack­ages and peo­ple, CCTV watch­ing the whole time.

Canada cer­tainly has enough of what Bri­tish doc­u­men­tary film­maker Mike Ni­cholls, 52, calls “toxic mas­cu­lines,” aim­less young men try­ing to find iden­tity, who feel dis­en­fran­chised easy tar­gets for ter­ror­ist groups wish­ing to brain­wash new re­cruits. “What I find ap­palling is those who carry out th­ese acts were born here,” he adds.

Ni­cholls says ter­ror­ism has al­ways been part of his life: “You’re out­side Sel­fridge’s and “BANG!” But you go on. They want to die— do you?” Hughes, the Cana­dian in Lon­don, won­ders if the in­for­ma­tion bal­ance isn’t heav­ily tipped. “When Lon­don Bridge hap­pened, I was here with a load of friends, and none of us even heard about it. Un­til I started get­ting texts from North Amer­ica, from ev­ery­one there — watch­ing CNN.” At 84, Ron­ald Black­all has seen more than most. He was in the vicin­ity of many at­tacks, such as in 1991 when the IRA launched a home­made mis­sile at 10 Down­ing Street, the of­fi­cial res­i­dence of the Prime Min­is­ter, and the “Bai­ley bomb­ings” — car bomb at­tacks out­side the famed court­house in 1973.

Black­all of­fers this wis­dom: “Any ma­jor city right now has a lot of peo­ple who want to get back at a so­ci­ety in which they don’t feel they have a place. It is so­ci­ety’s job to min­i­mize their risk — and carry on.” “Fear con­scious­ness isn’t use­ful,” Alas­tair Hud­son, 49, a so­cial jus­tice ac­tivist, adds. “Fear begets fear and there’s money in mis­ery. Wher­ever you are, in­clud­ing Canada, you must dis­cern whether you buy into some­one else’s drama. I don’t. And, if my name is on the bomb that day, then I’m gone. That’s my exit. But, mean­while, I live my life to the fullest.”

The Shaun Proulx Show airs on Sir­iusXM Canada Talks chan­nel 167.

He is the pub­lisher of TheGayGuide Net­work.com

and leads a #Thought Revo­lu­tion about bust­ing through per­sonal lim­its on ShaunProulx.com.

WENN

A photo from the One Love Manch­ester ben­e­fit con­cert, held in June.

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