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by Carrie Devorah


A month before Sir Bob Geldoff raised awareness and sales for Live 8's participating talent, ten or so London Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) service stations local were shut down due to lack of funding. Days after Geldoff's "not for money but to shift G8 policy" concerts were held in ten cities around the world, the knighted musician released for sale Live 8's original concert 20th anniversary DVD. Within 72 hours of that announcement, less than 24 hours after London was awarded the Olympic games, a series of bombs tore open the holes in Britian's homeland security system. Outside of the UK, countries presented displays of disaster preparedness. 35 simulated victims, in Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium, presented faux injuries generally seen at terrorist bomb attacks. For contrast and comparison, there were hundreds of victims, respectively in Russia's subway attack, almost 1000 in Madrid, 9/11 almost 3000 were murdered in the Twin Towers attack, 200 plus at the Pentagon.

DC Mayor Tony Williams, conveying the District is prepared for attacks in this nation's Capitol, said the District "understands how [Brits] are feeling at this time of terrible tragedy and uncertainty." I recall the National Air and Space Museum's sepia archive photos from WWII, showing London after the Blitz. A man lies in a street. Bombing had cut him in half.

I worked in London for a bit covering horseracing and local news. It was my time to return to America, summer of 2003. I left London shortly after No.10 Downing cancelled a disaster re-enactment at London's deepest tube station, without a reason or re-schedule date. Between visits to the Tube Museum and local fire stations, I understood why the re-enactment was cancelled. A successful rescue could most likely not be done. The rescue workers I interviewed explained to me the mathematics of rescue. Rescue time is limited by how much air their apparatus contains. Calculating the time it would take rescuers to travel from the sidewalk surface to the deepest part of the Tube tracks, they knew there was no way they would make it down and back to fresh air before their breathing supply ran out. HAZMAT educated me that the success of a HAZMAT response happens only when the exact toxin is known before they reach the site. Until then, there are more chances for being wrong until the pharmacology of the poison is figured out, with response trucks to disaster scenes challenged by narrow streets, pedestrians, stubborn drivers and more, they can arrive too late. DC enforcement acknowledged their 911 problem was the length of time it took drivers to exit the city, over four hours. It is now 2005; normal commuter traffic departure time has increased.

It was the late night tea talks with EMT firemen near the Edgware Road neighbourhood I lived in that taught me the most about Britain's disaster unpreparedness witnessed this morning. And their consciences. In the event of bio terrorism, I was told, a "shoot to kill" policy would be in the hands of the military. UK Intel, I was told, got word about fake arms dipped in poisons that could be dragged on Underground banisters where commuters would touch the railings, then their face, eyes and so on. Contamination would occur after leaving the contact point, poisoning others encountered along the way. Containing the toxin would be late. Hence kill the few to save the many is the operative theory.

Not much one can say when hit with that revelation. Other than tell my editor and look into the matter further. I did. I discovered Covent Garden's Transportation Museum forbids Xeroxing of transportation maps but one can sit for as many hours as it takes to faithfully render the travel routes. Of course, ID was required for access to the Museum library. ID's can be faked. Couple this with the knowledge that maps of the Underground, before limited to public access, were saved as tourist momentos, preserved on home library bookshelves, or sold by peddlers near Picadilly and elsewhere. No. 10 refused to discuss their policy.

Then I found a fact and figures resource to calculate the probability of Rescue Math with the chaps over night's tea in the Firehouse. I looked at the numbers, and then at the Fireman. "You may die?" I didn't tell him anything he didn't already know. He said if on strike when disaster occurs, his team would do what they are trained for, "we'll throw the Grey Book away." The Grey book, their bible of government rules established to mitigate firemen's legal liability would not matter to them, lives would, at any cost, even that of their own life. I often think of these men ready to die for strangers who too often treat them with disrespect. I recall Metro Center, DC 9-11-04. I was one of three commuters applauding an EMT team who saved the life of a churlish teen who brought on his attack by his own negligence. I think of the civilian in NW DC who stood in front of a cop car responding to a woman-in-distress call during Hurricane Isabel. Or police officers sued for doing their jobs.

I am known to say: there is only one wheel just variations, thereof. While people would like to believe America is different from other countries around the world, people are pretty much the same everywhere, culturally, politically, pretty much - just the zipcodes change.

UK Hyde Park anti-US, anti-Israel protest (Carrie Devorah).

I meet talking heads in DC, unaware of situations in Europe I've photographed yet they continue to set policy or issue press releases based on few facts. The push to blame fanatical attacks continues to be towards Osama, the man can only be blamed for so much. It is time to admit, the greatest threat is not just Muslim terrorists but people we meet in our daily lives. Like the college coeds accepting upwards of $1800 a person to ferry illegal immigrants across America's borders in the trunks of their cars past border guards relying on visuals of car passengers without searching the vehicle. One need only to look at Pershing Square in downtown DC to recall Muslim terrorism did not begin on 911. Today, though, Pershing's technique of educating the enemy he was not to be trifled with would have been challenged by left wingers defending the rights of people who murder.

A US police officer told me his department assigned flak vest corroded from body sweat. My tears are because I want him to live forever along with all the officers and firemen around the world willing to put their lives on the line for strangers. Will the likes of Sir Geldoff and Bono hold concerts to raise funds for military serving God and country? Or for my officer who paid hundreds of dollars from his pocket for a vest we both hope works when he needs it to.

The lesson this officer teaches is what we all need to learn. The safety of our lives is in our own hands. Not in the government's. Officers are responders. They do their job with our help as their eyes and ears. The world is too big for peace officers to be everywhere before. They will be there after the event happens.

A second insight into personal responsibility in these technological days and times is simpler. My advice comes from a member of "The God Squad." We talk about the event Intel knows will come, "not if but when." His words are direct, "let the little things slide." "Let loved ones know you love them as often as you can." And then the Padre told me, "wake up in the morning, Carrie. Put on that smile, go out and make each day your best day ever." So I head to work where I photographically archive policy makers with security teams sweeping buses and Undergrounds they travel on, don't share the same risks civilians do.

I know what to do to mitigate disaster or how to be found if caught in one. Dental records. ID bracelets. Letting people know where I am going at all times but then like Natalie Holloway, the teen feared dead in Aruba, I am human, like Intel, preferring to see the best in people rather than the worst.

The only truth I can share is that there never is a way to 100% vet people. Who they are today may not be who they are tomorrow. One only need look at BTK. His wife lived with him 20 years alleging she never had clues to his being a cold blooded murderer. The Edgware Road bombing took out a wall not near the trucks. More than likely, the explosives at root for the bombings were set in place long ago, triggered by remote. For almost two years, I walked by that wall, by workers, by crewmen, we since learned could buy accreditation and identification at one of several pubs in North East London.

Of course I can provide more details on how the attacks may be motivated and by whom, but there is one bit of advice I think would better be served. Pick up the phone and tell someone how much you love them. Then step out into the world, focused on living life to the fullest. And smile, even at a cop.


Carrie Devorah is an award winning investigative photojournalist based in Washington DC. Her family are the first Canadians to lose a member to a terrorist bus bombing in Jerusalem. Devorah is a certified crime information analyst and profiler instrumental in building the nation's first discrete site crime analysis department at a College PD. Contact her by email at or at


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