Shaken, Not Deterred

Riders pack a subway train at Metro Center under the watchful eyes of a transit police officer.
Riders pack a subway train at Metro Center under the watchful eyes of a transit police officer. (By Sarah L. Voisin -- The Washington Post)

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By Wil Haygood
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 8, 2005

In this concrete-covered and monument-strewn city -- the country's central nervous system for analyzing terrorist attacks -- what seemed to distinguish those who were coming and going yesterday after the attacks across London was a strange sense of fearlessness tinged with fatalism.

A feeling of what-will-be-will-be.

It sounded like a spirit snatched from the American frontier. It sounded like pure attitude -- wrapped in a little fear.

"There's ultimately no protection against it," said the Rev. Christopher Begg, 55, who teaches the Old Testament at Catholic University and was awaiting a Metro train in Brookland. He was referring to the terrorist attacks that killed at least 37 and injured more than 700 in London. His voice was quite serene. "What can you do if something is inevitable?"

Katie Van Hoey is a 24-year-old paralegal. She knows her family wishes she lived elsewhere. "They don't particularly like me living in the nation's capital," she said, also awaiting a train in Brookland while two transit police officers traversed the platform, an example of yesterday's heightened security. "It won't change the way I travel around the city though," she said. Then she went back to reading the book in her hands, "Paradise Lost."

All across the city yesterday, families of tourists still queued up for their boat rides, their trolley car rides, their lockstep strides to feast their eyes on the treasures of the city.

"It's not 'War of the Worlds,' " said Allison Carr, visiting from Minnesota with her mother and sister. "It's a war of our world."

It sounded like innocence lost. She's 20 years old. And yesterday she just wanted to have fun in a city existing in very complex times. "We've seen bomb-sniffing dogs," she said, sounding as if she suddenly realized how far she was from her home outside St. Paul.

"I told 'em I'd protect them," said Pat Bottini, 20, who is Allison's boyfriend and is living here during the summer, working as an intern for Minnesota Rep. Mark Kennedy. "You're used to seeing security everywhere anyway."

Descending into the subway, Allison's mom, Marlene Carr, 44, said that she was involved in the planning of a trip to the nation's capital a few years ago but was still somewhat haunted by the then-recent sniper shootings. "I was to be the chaperon during that trip. But we canceled at the last minute. My husband said, 'I'm a gambling man, but not with my family.' "

Mom looked around the subway. It was midmorning, but the downtown station seemed strangely unpopulated. "Is this normal?" she asked. "Is it usually this quiet?"

Bottini offered reassurance, telling the Carrs there was plenty of security around. "We had an evacuation at the Capitol recently because of a plane flying overhead," he said. "So everybody's ready."


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