I set out on a walk of central London to gauge the mood. I began in Soho and went south toward Westminster.
Regent Street, with its high-end stores, was bustling. Hamleys toy store was packed -- sardine tight-- just like FAO Schwarz in New York City. Tall men dressed in pirate costumes engaged the children. I was struck by a young Muslim girl, her hair covered by a traditional black scarf, working the cashier.
I passed Picadilly Circus and stopped at Trafalgar Square. People were lined along the railings outside the National Gallery. Others sat at the base of Lord Nelson's column watching a modern dance recital performed by an Asian women's group.
The narrator welcomed everyone, saying, "Hello, Bonjour, Willkommen, Salaam Aleikum" -- a multicultural greeting for the tourists and Brits who had stopped to see what was going on. No one seemed worried. No one seemed afraid. They felt safe enough to stop and linger.
The sound of Indian music boomed over the loudspeakers and women in brightly colored saris walked out in a traditional bridal procession. It was a dance about women who crossed the ocean to have a different life than the ones they might have lived in Asia and the Pacific.
The roar of an airplane came across the speakers, and a voice talking about women's struggles and challenges said, "Fasten your seat belt there is turbulence ahead." Having spent the last 72 hours immersed in covering the jetliner terror plot, I smiled at the irony.
I was surprised to see only four policemen outside 10 Downing Street, where Prime Minister Tony Blair lives. An American man turned to his son, who looked to be about 10 years old, and said, "There's lots more security outside the White House." Though in all fairness, it could be due to the fact the prime minister and his family are on vacation in Barbados.
Reaching Westminster Hall and Parliament, I smiled as families snapped photos with Big Ben in the background. Millions of people from around the world must have that same photo of themselves from the exact same street corner.
It wasn't until I stepped off the return bus at Oxford Circus that I was yanked back to reality. A poster from the Evening Standard with the headline -- "TERROR PLOT: NEW DETAILS" -- in capital letters. I asked a shopkeeper whether business at 4:00 in the afternoon was slower than normal and he said, "Actually it's busier. People can't leave. We can't get rid of them." With that, he smiled and I walked back to the office.