By Tariq Panja
The Associated Press
LONDON — Londoners were on edge Friday after two explosives-packed cars were found in the city's theater district just days before the second anniversary of a bombing onslaught that killed 52 commuters, and the thwarted plot revived painful memories.
"If something bad happens, you don't want to keep revisiting it," said Caroline Steadman, 35, whose brother Philip Russell was among those killed in the July 7, 2005, attack by four suicide bombers.
Still, the threat of terrorism is nothing new for London. It was a frequent target of attacks by the Irish Republican Army in the 1980s and 1990s, and many residents and visitors vowed to carry on as usual.
"I know you can't live your life being scared," Natalie Huntley, 28, a tourist from Adelaide, Australia, said outside St. Paul's Cathedral even as police investigated another suspicious vehicle parked on nearby Fleet Street. "You've just got to keep going, don't you?"
Some revelers who had been out enjoying London's nightlife early Friday were unfazed by news that a bomb was found not far from the clubs and bars around lively Piccadilly Circus and along Haymarket street.
Harry Haydon, 23, said he had just left the Bar Rumba and was shocked to see a "massive police presence" as officers swarmed across Haymarket where a Mercedes filled with a lethal mix of gasoline, propane and nails was parked outside the Tiger Tiger nightclub.
Haydon described police cars with blue lights flashing and traffic chaos as officers worked to divert drivers from the scene in the early hours Friday.
A second explosives-laden car was originally parked in the same area of London's West End, but was towed to an impound lot near Hyde Park before police discovered its contents.
Haydon said he would carry on partying. "If you let it stop you, then you are letting these people get what they want," he said.
Despite the attacks in 2005 — and the persistent threat of more to come — tourists continue to visit London in record numbers. The city had 15.2 million overseas visitors in 2006 even though the terror threat level in Britain has remained at "severe" since August.
On Friday, the Piccadilly Circus subway station was closed for eight hours, and some major roads, including Park Lane along the eastern edge of Hyde Park and Fleet Street near London's financial center were cordoned off as police investigated reports of suspicious cars.
"It doesn't make us nervous. We're just mad we can't go to Piccadilly Circus," said Sandy Mitchell, 61, a tourist from Los Angeles.
"I think they should be spanked and sent to bed without dinner until they can grow up," his wife, Lary, 60, said of the would-be bombers.
Tourism officials doubted the negative publicity would have an impact on visitor numbers.
"We know from experience that London's ability to recover from this type of incident is strong," said James Bidwell, chief executive of London's official tourism agency, Visit London.
He said even after the July 2005 bombings, tourism recovered within months — and the number of visits went up 9.4 percent in 2006.
Londoners take bomb threats in stride