September 11, 2001 will always mark the beginning of the war on terrorism for the United States. The sheer horror and fright that each of us felt on that day has left a mark that, though somewhat dulled, will never be forgotten. I truly believe that if it were not for the grace of God, this country would have experienced something much more horrific than what we actually did. It was a day that the whole world stood at attention and recognized that life as we knew it was changed and not for the better.
However, the United States was not the first to experience terrorism on its soil by far. For many years prior to September 11th, 2001, Britain dealt with terrorism on a constant basis from its own territories. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) was constantly plotting and carrying out attacks on both the mainland and in Ireland. MI5 got very good at foiling most of the attacks before they happened but there were some that they couldn’t stop.
I can remember when I lived in England, being lectured on being aware of our surroundings, varying our routes, and making sure that we were not easy targets. On one particular visit to London, we were traveling on the subway and had just entered the Bakersfield station to find that there were Bobbies all over the place. There were literally hundreds of them on each floor and some with dogs. We didn’t have to ask what was going on because to us, it was very obvious. The best and only thing we could do was get out of there.
It was while we were living there that the British government decided that the big black and gold steel trash cans that were on the streets needed to go. The IRA loved planting bombs in them and they were virtually undetectable because the cans were made of solid construction with just a side entrance, therefore concealing the contents. When the bombs off, the damage caused by large chunks of flying sharp steel was phenomenal. It was in essence a very lethal weapon. All of those trash cans are gone now and only a few wire mesh waste baskets exist. Of course, it is much more difficult to conceal a weapon in them and if they were able to, the damage would be far less. It was such a simple fix to a horrendous problem. The British pride themselves on the cleanliness of their country and rightly so.
Yes, the British have done away with the attacks from the IRA but the threat from Al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations is still very real. With the cooperation of British and American governments, both countries have foiled many attempts. Both countries have scars because of it and both are willing to do what it takes to prevent any more.