There are, of course, simple serendipities and coincidences – they happen all over the place and at any time. And then there are those extraordinary ones which defy belief. Like the time Mr and Mrs Smythe went, on a whim, to Brazil, and the couple from No. 34 were staying in the same hotel!! And they hadn’t seen them for months…
Naturally, occurrences can either bode well or not for the people involved. Stray from the path, and you could find your ‘blind date’ is actually your wife or husband, as the case may be. Whoops!
“What people call serendipity sometimes is just having your eyes open.”
— Jose Manuel Barroso
I came across the most serious ‘coincidence’ I had ever encountered, while collating facts for my only novel The Catalyst. The book is based on the actual terrorist bombings of several London trains and a bus in 2005, the aftermath and a few fictitious survivors’ stories and fate. Because of the actual dead and injured, the subject was too delicate to write about at the time, and it was several years before I actually wrote the story and had it published.
The Foreword to my tale reads as follows:
“It’s hard to believe in coincidence, but it’s even harder to believe in anything else.”
— John Green (Will Grayson, Will Grayson)
THAT FAR-REACHING ARM Coincidence, which seems to weave its disembodied way through all manner of innocent and drama-filled occurrences and ‘incidents,’ again came to the fore on the 7th day of July in 2005.
Press reports at the time claimed an anti-terror drill was organized and carried out that same day on behalf of the Metropolitan Police, by Peter Power, a former high-ranking policeman and Managing Director of Visor Consultants. Known to only a handful of people, a fictional ‘scenario’ of multiple bomb attacks on London’s underground was, incredibly, being played out just after the time the actual bomb attacks took place, stretching the meaning of coincidence to its utmost limit.
The coincidence of the innocent and the truly dreadful events carried out on that day, was said to be ‘Disconcerting’… but apart from information given to accredited journalists and academics, no further comments were forthcoming from Peter Power because of ‘The Extraordinary number of messages from ill-informed people.’ (Reported on 13th July.)
The news reports fanned the flames of conspiracy theories and high-level cover-ups, so familiar to us today in the aftermath of any major incident or attack.
The press also reported that the former Mayor of New York: Rudolph Giuliani was visiting London at the time of the attacks. He was staying at The Great Eastern Hotel (close to Liverpool Street station ) where TASE: The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, was hosting its Economic Conference. Israel’s Finance Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was the keynote speaker. Presumably this was intended as further fuel for the fire of mysterious and sinister goings-on. Newspaper editors and their owners are, for the most part, not usually shy of publishing rumours, gossip or outright falsehoods when it suits their needs.
Eerie connotations lingered, however ‘coincidental.’
But an investigation by journalists at UK’s Channel 4 news found the ‘anti-terror drill’, while certainly a coincidence, was in fact a purely theoretical exercise, and the terror attack scenario was one of 3 possible incidents being examined by a group of business executives. As Channel 4 and BreakForNews.com pointed out:
‘These types of private-sector “risk management” drills never use field staff. Neither do [such] low-level corporate drills have active involvement of police or other security forces.’
So, it seems the Press over-hyped the story, perhaps misled by initial statements. Or maybe they just decided to go with a more colourful interpretation of events. Peter Power himself dismissed it as ‘spooky coincidence’. And the chosen date? It was indeed coincidence — but an unbelievable one? ‘Every week across the UK there are probably about a hundred exercises, tests and simulations going on to get crisis teams familiar with their roles,’ Power insisted. ‘We certainly do this regularly for many clients, the vast majority of them paper-based.’
People love stories, and the idea of dark machinations and sinister plots involving spy agencies, government cover-ups and terrorists is the stuff of countless books, films and TV shows.
A good journalist will always try to dig a little deeper to uncover the facts. But not everyone wants to hear the truth, and many people will choose to believe whatever interpretation of events most closely fits with their existing world-view.
Shakespeare described man as: ‘noble in reason and infinite in faculties,’ but, sadly, we are often rather lacking when it comes to reasoning, and rarely in full possession of all those faculties.
The Catalyst is available from Amazon: Paperback $13.99 or Kindle 99 cents.
© Copyright Joy Lennick 2022
Photos: unsplash.com / pixabay.com