SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Twitter and other social media platforms often seem antisocial, mean, ugly avenues where people bash, blame and fulminate. But this week, just a couple of hours after the terrorists in front of the British Parliament killed four people and wounded scores of others from all over the world, the official Westminster Twitter account posted a short note of simple nobility. (Reading) We can confirm that both the House of Commons and the House of Lords will sit tomorrow at their normal times.
It was a quiet message of defiance, an understated, eloquent way to say we're still here, business as usual. The show of democracy goes on.
Years ago, I was at a play at Shaftsbury Theatre in London - a British bedroom farce, if you can imagine - when three bobbies walked into the action on stage. With all the doors slamming and actors prancing in sheets and towels, a lot of us in the audience thought the men in tall blue police helmets had to be in the show, but they were real bobbies. One called out from the stage, sorry to halt the show, but a threat has been called into the theater. We must ask you to leave, quickly and calmly please. Thank you. Tom Conti, one of the stars of the play, came out to stand alongside them. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, he said. Please do leave calmly now. You see, we actors won't leave until you do.
There'd been a recent bombing of Harrods by the Irish Republican Army that killed six people during the holiday season, and almost every month in London you heard about bombs and threats and life went on. I remember the astonishing quiet of several hundred people who filed out of the theater in just three or four minutes. All you really heard was the soft scuffling of a thousand shoes. I went into the small park across the way because a reporter really should stay around if something is about to explode. But I saw a lot of people who'd been in the theater, too. And within a few minutes, Tom Conti and the actors also came out to the park. They picked up the play from the moment they had to stop it on stage and performed it to the end, standing on benches and shouting their lines above the belching buses along Shaftesbury Avenue.
The threat to the theater turned out to be a hoax, but it inspired - and I think that's the word - a true show of a great city's character. When a vicious terror attack struck the heart of London this week, London's heart stopped for a moment and then went on.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LONDON PRIDE")
VERA LYNN: (Singing) London pride has been handed down to us. London pride is a flower that's free. London pride means our own dear town to us and our pride it forever will be.
SIMON: Dame Vera, and you're listening to NPR News.
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