Families in the aftermath of terrorist attacks
Much fast-breaking news on the London bombings--so fast that, by the time I finish writing this post, new events may have taken over. Things will probably continue to change moment by moment, but the questions right now are: did all the bombers die in the blasts? And, if not, will they be caught? And, of course, who are they?
These details are not known yet. But there is virtually no doubt that the bombers were (or are?) Islamicists, most likely living in Britain for some time. I am also amazed, as I was after 9/11, at the ubiquity of surveillance cameras, and their ability to help the police in cracking the case. In the last decade or so, the use of security cameras has mushroomed, and my guess is that they will continue to be a vital forensic tool.
Unfortunately, though, the cameras only come into play ex-post-facto. They record events in real time, but they cannot tell us what is happening or what will happen; they can only give us information after the fact. Photos that at first look utterly ordinary become chilling and telling only in retrospect, containing information that, but for the cameras, we might never have learned.
Another interesting detail that has just emerged in the London case is that the family of one of the bombers (yes, I know: "alleged bombers") reported him missing after the blast. This is a strong indication that they had no idea of his role in the attack. This is not surprising, of course. I would imagine they are undergoing a very difficult time right now, as they learn what their loved one was actually up to that day.
Of course, sometimes the families of bombers are sympathetic to their cause. Or, sometimes they pretend to be, the better to fit their community's twisted type of political correctness (for example, among the Palestinians). But sometimes family members' sympathies lie elsewhere. The large Bin Laden family is a case in point--quite a few members have spoken out against their most famous relative. And back in February of 2003, a lengthy profile of the family of Moussaoui, the so-called "twentieth hijacker," appeared in the NY Times Sunday Magazine. It was extraordinary for a number of reasons, but one of the most interesting was that it revealed that one of Moussaoui's two sisters is a converted Jew and fervent Zionist. So, one cannot assume much of anything about the families of terrorists.
Speaking of families, I was wondering why we've seen virtually nothing about the victims of the London bombings. It seems that, at least according to this story, which features a brief description and photos of three of the victims, the reason for the delay is that progress has been slow on identifying the bodies and notifying the families.
Those families, and the families of the many other people who are missing and presumed dead, are undergoing a very special and horrific type of torment right now. What they are experiencing is the stuff of nightmare. It is a strange thing to think that, even as I write this, there are families in such widely scattered places as Netanya in Israel, London, and of course Iraq who are all mourning the victims of terrorists. What do these families have in common? Simply this: their loved ones were going about the ordinary business of life, and were blown apart by followers of a branch of Islam that is indeed "in love with death," and which has been allowed to flourish in the fertile soil of Western tolerance.