LONDON — “London can take it.”
The defiant phrase used by Sir Ian Blair, London’s police chief on Friday, the day after more than 50 people died in attacks on rush hour commuters, has struck a chord in a city where memories of World War II and Irish Republican Army bombings have tempered panic and grief.
London Mayor Ken Livingstone, for his part, urged the capital’s residents to get back to normal as quickly as possible, and many did as most subway and bus service was restored.
“That is the advice that I give to every Londoner: that we carry on in this city working and enjoying our city as we do every other day of the year,” Livingstone told a press conference.
And the driver of the double-decker bus destroyed in one blast vowed Friday to return to work.
“Myself and the other drivers in London have an important job, and we are going to continue to do that job as best we can. We are going to continue our normal lives. We are not going to be intimidated,” the driver, whose name was not released, said in a statement from the bus service.
Media reluctance to expose bereaved families to the limelight, and the fact that most people were spared the full horror of events on underground trains, have added to the impression of a nation taking trauma in stride.
Harkening back to the Blitz
“If London can survive the Blitz, it can survive four miserable events like this,” said Blair, whose defiant vow “London can take it” was also the name of a propaganda documentary made in 1940 during the Blitz that captured something of the indomitable spirit of Londoners under siege.
London commuters returned to mass transit on Friday, but buses and subways carried fewer riders than normal.
Some commuters, admitting they were afraid, opted for a taxi. But others said they had little choice but to board the subway.
“I was scared, but what can you do?” said Raj Varatharaj, 32, emerging from an Underground station. “This is the fastest way for me to get to work. You just have to carry on.”
Some were defiant. “My granddad called me last night and told me I had to go to work today,” said Sally Higson, 36. “He’s 89. He lived through the war and said it was important to carry on as normal.”
Most transit service open
Ten of London’s 12 subway lines reopened Friday, though service on three was restricted. Bus service was running through central London, except for diversions around blast sites.
Aldona Mosjko, a 21-year-old bagel shop manager from Poland, was among those too frightened to take public transportation Friday. “Normally, I take the bus, but today, I took a taxi. I was a bit afraid,” she said.
Some commuters commented on what appeared to be a light police presence at some Underground stations.
“Everyone is very quiet, everybody is a bit anxious,” said Anil Patel, 40, a banker. “An obvious (police) presence would have settled your nerves.”
Bus driver recalls scene
In his first comments, the driver of the bus destroyed in one attack said he helped wounded and dying passengers when a blast ripped off the roof.
“I tried to help the poor people,” he said. “There were many injured people and at first I thought, ‘How am I alive, when everyone is dying around me?'”
“The police then had to take me away because they were concerned there might be further explosions,” he said.
The No. 30 bus was near Russell Square in central London after being diverted from its usual route because of people streaming out of underground railway stations hit by earlier bomb blasts on the underground railway network.
“Suddenly there was a bang, then carnage. Everything seemed to happen behind me,” he said.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.