Now these guys meant business.
The week before we were to leave for London, some government agency or other issued the statement that "it would be a miracle" if there were not any terrorist attacks in London over the Christmas holiday.
They used the word "miracle" here.
They could have said "It's extremely likely," or "The chance of attack is high," but no, they took it one better. "It'll be a miracle if you're not just blown to pieces."
This is not what you want your wife to hear before you set out on a transatlantic flight. I actually heard the announcement before she did, and I kept it to myself, but, you guessed it, she heard it anyway, and we considered not taking the trip.
Well, she considered not taking the trip. I was going. I said things like "We can't let the terrorists win," and "Don't worry, honey, if I see any terrorists I will take them out myself." I won her over with my last and most compelling argument, which was "Nonrefundable".
But as soon as we landed at Gatwick airport, it was clear that Britain was ready. We saw squads of four or five policemen, either standing and scanning the airport or patrolling it, often with police dogs. The police were outfitted like the two pictured here, with blocky bulletproof vests and submachine guns fitted with flashlights and with double ammunition clips taped together bottom-to-top, so that if they were called upon to open fire on someone and they emptied a clip, they could quickly pop out the clip and snap in the other end and quickly let loose another 32 rounds.
They all looked fully alert and serious and professional, and after seeing group after group of them I felt absolutely safe. Much safer than in the states...
At the North Carolina airport we saw numerous signs which said that we were on Orange Alert.
Of the ten or so different color alerts that there were to choose from, Orange is second from the top . Red Alert is the only thing past Orange, so Red Alert, I assume, means that the airport is actually under attack as you are reading the sign. So apparently on the night of our flight out, the threat was as high as it could possibly be without bombs actually going off around us. But despite that, the closest thing to armed policemen I remember seeing in the entire airport were the security people waving people through the metal detectors.
I'd always vaguely thought that England had really top-notch police and military forces, but seeing it for myself reinforced that many times over. England has my respect in the security department.