THE END OF INNOCENCE VIOLENCE HITS HOME WORLDWIDE

By Published on .

FROM LONDON

It was my turn to call after a bomb went off. Since I moved to England in 1988, my parents and brother in Oklahoma have called me after IRA bombings.

I first heard of the bombing in my native state at 5 p.m. in the London newsroom of Dow Jones' satellite TV channel European Business News, where I was beinginterviewed for a regular segmentthe publication I edit has on European marketing trends. I watched live footage on the studio monitor of a bombing in Oklahoma City.Growing up in Enid, 80 miles to the north, we always called it "The City."

My father was in "The City" and heard the explosion at the federal building, which is near an office where my brother Mike used to work.

Earlier this month, I was in Enid and drove to Oklahoma City to have lunch with Flint Breckinridge, a friend from college who is now a state representative. To my surprise, mother warned me about drive-by shootings in The City and told me to keep the car doors locked. As a child, a trip to The City was an adventure, but not that kind.

Bombs and IRA "outrages," as they are called in England, are something I've never felt threatened by while working in London. If anyone in the States asks if living in England is dangerous, I rattle off statistics about the high rate of violent deaths in the U.S. compared to the U.K. We may have bombs, but there aren't bullets flying about.

I travel 35 miles by train to London and viewed bomb scares as a constant inconvenience before the Irish peace process began. You'd know from a distance if they were looking for bombs at Euston Station-people would be queuing up at phone boxes to ring home about being late for dinner.

I've never seen a commuter show concern about a bomb scare-it just isn't done in a country where with quiet determination citizens got on with life for five years while Hitler showered them with bombs, buzz-bombs and V2 rockets.

Memories of the Blitz are still fresh. As a girl, my mother-in-law remembers sleeping under a table in London before being evacuated to the countryside. A year ago, I was visiting some friends who had recently moved into a house in London. Their living room wall still has a big crack caused by a bomb that destroyed a house at the end of the street.

We had none of that in Oklahoma. When I was a boy in Enid in the '60s, a story went around the playgrounds that if the war had gone on, Hitler planned to bomb Enid's grain elevators, which were the largest in the world.

Last year I took my then 4-year-old son to the London Transport Museum. We boarded a '40s London double-decker bus. A guide explained to my son how the windows were taped over to stop glass from flying if a bomb fell nearby. After we stepped off the bus, my son asked, "Did Hitler bomb Oklahoma?"

I answered, "No son, nobody has ever bombed Oklahoma." Bill Britt is the editor of Advertising Age's Daily World Wire and Advertising Age's Euromarketing.

FROM TOKYO

By Ivy Silverman

Since the subway gas attack in this formerly crime-safe city, police are everywhere: Spot checks on the road, patrolmen in subway stations, recorded messages on trains asking people to watch their belongings and report suspicious packages on board suddenly are commonplace.

Now I'm often more annoyed by the ineffectiveness of the police investigation and the media's lynching of the Aum cult without proof than I am in fear of my life. Yet I'm amazed at how easy it was to transport that poison and how vulnerable we are just going about our daily lives. The myth of the all-safe Japan has been shattered.

Last week, for example, I mistakenly left some change in a vending machine, and a man chased me up the street to give me the money I'd forgotten. I thought, "This is what has made Tokyo unique among big cities." I then took the subway home and there were at least six policemen patrolling through each car and checking packages, and I thought, "But it's become just like everywhere else." Ivy Silverman is an Advertising Age corespondent in Tokyo.

FROM S. AMERICA

By Laurel Wentz

When I arrived in Argentina some 15 years ago on a meager fellowship, the country seemed to be in denial after the brutal guerra sucia, or dirty war, against murderous, widespread terrorism.

Argentina ended terrorism.

They did it by killing-or "disappear-ing"-thousands of people suspected of being terrorists, knowing terrorists, thinking left-wing thoughts.

Argentines didn't want to talk about it. They put up with newspaper censorship and with police rudely demanding national identity cards. To me, the most chilling thing was the insistence that people had disappeared "because they were involved in something. It was their own fault."

Out of lingering fear or revulsion, friends would pull me away from the street when a green Ford Falcon drove by. They were the cars the secret police had used, the ones into which people were dragged and never seen again.

A terrified Argentine friend fled into self-imposed exile in New York, convinced strange men were following us on Buenos Aires streets and that he was about to disappear. Was he paranoid or prescient? I've never known.M

Laurel Wentz, deputy editor/international, is now based in London.

FROM BELFAST

In Belfast in the early '80s, violence was a way of life.

Not murder and mayhem on the streets every day, but the poten-tial and awareness that it could happen at any time. And in a land where even sporting events are political, there was tremendous sophistication on all sides about the role of the press.

During one riot after a soccer game, I recall a youth, a supporter of the Catholic Cliftonville soccer club. As he ran from a British army patrol that had fired plastic bullets into a stone-throwing crowd, he was already thinking about the next day's media coverage.

"Wait till you see the papers tomorrow," he said. He also advised me not to get my hands dirty. "That's how the peelers [police] will tell who was rioting."

After a while I incorporated the subtle backdrop of tension into my everyday life.

Boulders were placed on sidewalks in front of pubs to deter car bombs. It was an everyday feeling, and I did not even know it was there until I left Belfast on a trip to Dublin. As I crossed the border checkpoint, I could literally feel the tension lift.

People on both sides of the religious divide in Northern Ireland learned to live with with it, carry on with life, sing, work, go to school. It all became incorporated into the fiber of everyday life: inconveniences that had to be dealt with like rain or unemployment or a traffic accident.

On my last trip to Belfast in September, peace had erupted at last. Now in America in America in the 1990s, violence seems to be a way of life.

Senior Editor Keith J. Kelly, who now lives in New York, covers the magazine industry.

In this article:
Most Popular