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London abroad program continues

Megan O'Neil | Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Notre Dame undergraduate London program will continue this fall as originally planned despite the coordinated terrorist attacks July 7 that killed 52 people and injured more than 700 in the British city, program officials said.No students pulled out of the program in response to the four deadly explosions, three on underground trains and one on a bus, associate program director Terri Bays said. The 128 participants left for London Aug. 17. Bays did receive a number of phone calls from parents in the days after the attacks, but most were “overwhelmingly supportive” of the program continuing, Bays said.”We waited a few days [after the attack], and then we sent out a note via e-mail to the parents of the fall students reassuring them that we were continuing the program,” Bays said. “There would have to be some information that there was a significant growing danger to the students such as the outbreak of war or specific terrorist attacks for the program to be canceled.” Notre Dame students participating in the summer engineering program were in London when the attacks occurred, but all were already in class the morning of July 7. Robert Dunn, director of the London engineering program, went to the classrooms to inform the students of the incidents. “We asked the students to stay in the Notre Dame building until things quieted down,” Dunn said. Many students intended to spend the three-day weekend traveling, but since the attacks took place on a Thursday, some students ran into difficulty getting to the train stations, Dunn said. “The Tube and buses were closed down and all the cabs were really busy,” Dunn said. The students responded “remarkably well” and kept in close contact with program directors for the duration of the summer, Dunn said. The city had largely returned to normal within a few days, he said. News of the attacks “deeply saddened” junior and fall program participant Meghan Wons, and it crossed her mind her semester abroad might be canceled. “Unfortunately, something like the July 7 attacks can happen at any time and anywhere,” Wons said. “I didn’t consider pulling out of the program but the July 7 attacks did make me warier of riding the Tube.”Wons’ mother Karen did consider asking her daughter not to go to London and has been watching the news very closely. “[Terrorism] certainly is a concern,” Karen Wons said. “At the same time, I think it is just an incredible opportunity to do the study abroad experience.”Her elder daughter participated in the London programs three years ago, and Karen Wons and her husband still plan on visiting their daughter for Thanksgiving. “I do have faith in the Notre Dame program that if they felt the situation was worsening they would send them home,” Karen Wons said. Philip O’Brien, whose daughter Kathleen O’Brien is studying in London this semester, said while he was concerned about the attacks, he did not ask his daughter not to go. “We had some trepidation but we figured its part of life these days,” O’Brien said. “The upside outweighs the risk.”Meghan Wons admitted that going to school in London after the July 7 attacks would be very different than living on campus in South Bend, and said she had received lots of advice from students who had gone in past semesters.”I think I will try to travel in groups and avoid taking the Tube as much as possible,” Meghan Wons said. “I know a lot of my flatmates and friends here said that their parents did not want them taking the tube either, so we will all be doing a lot of walking together.”Due to exterior threats, such as those from the Irish Republican Army, the undergraduate London program has had security measures in place since the late 1980s, Bays said. Guests are not allowed to stay overnight in Notre Dame housing, and no one can enter the classroom building without an identification card. Students are also given a full security detail upon arriving in the city, Bays said.