Testing for terror: Preparing for the unthinkable at London Olympics

British emergency services gather during an exercise to test their readiness for a terror attack at London's disused Aldwych underground station

British emergency services gather during an exercise to test their readiness for a terror attack at London’s disused Aldwych underground station / F. Brinley Bruton

LONDON — The bells of St Clement Danes Church on The Strand chimed on the hour at 10 a.m.  Gray clouds hung low over traffic-filled streets and the cold chilled to the bone.

So a pretty typical February day in central London.

It became untypical at around 11, after two young men walked out of nearby Aldwych underground, or subway, station.  A few minutes later, a public announcement instructed everybody to leave the building. The trickle of commuters leaving the station became a torrent.  Some of them were irate, demanding an explanation from subway workers and police.  Others held their heads or limbs, seemingly wounded and in shock.

Sirens screamed and a helicopter hovered above.  Police vans, ambulances, fire trucks and a large green tent for the wounded clogged the narrow lane outside the station.  Dozens of first responders — fire fighters in helmets and black-and-yellow outfits, ambulance workers, police officers and delighted-looking bomb-sniffing dogs — milled around on the street.

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About fbrinleybruton

F. Brinley Bruton has been a journalist for 15, and worked in Kabul, Mexico City, Philadelphia, and New York City. Now based in London, she is a editor, producer and senior writer at NBCNews.com, a leader in breaking news and original journalism online that gets over a billion page views a month. Before joining MSNBC.com -- which became NBCNews.com in 2012 -- Brinley wrote about security, business and finance, international development and women’s issues. She has worked at Reuters in London and New York, and her pieces have appeared in the New Statesman, The Guardian, Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Long Island Newsday, The Star-Ledger, and Arabies Trends, among others. She also wrote and blogged for AlertNet, Reuters’ humanitarian news website.
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