About a week ago, a college student stabbed a bunch of people on the MRT, killing four and injuring 21. He managed to kill the people he attacked first, as they were asleep and had no time to react, but fortunately once people were onto him the fatalities were at an end. Still, scary stuff. Aside from hating the guy for being a murderer, I have to admit I also hate him for screwing with the MRT, which I have always liked a lot, kind of in the same way that I also hated the 9/11 terrorists for adding those connotations to such a wonderful thing as air travel.
The atmosphere in the trains has changed: People are more alert. Fewer sleep. Fewer have headphones on. For the first few days after the attack, the trains were nearly silent, especially as the trains entered a tunnel under a river, for that was where the killer chose to begin his attack, as that gave him the most time between stops. He also wore a red shirt, most likely in order to hide the inevitable blood stains that would alert others to his activities (as if holding a couple of knives didn’t clue people in). Any kind of exclamation or unusual noise would get everyone looking instantly at its source. The media, of course, went insane. That’s what the media here does. The parents of the killer were hounded by the press so much that the mayor of Xinbei City told them to cut it out. Priests were called in to exorcize the train cars. Mountains of flowers piled up outside the station where the train stopped and the killer was caught.
Slowly, things are returning to normal as reports of “copycats” subside. For a while SWAT teams roamed the subways with semi-automatic weapons at their sides. Now, ordinary police officers have replaced them, and substitute national servicemen will most likely follow. People are beginning to sleep in their seats again, wear headphones, talk, etc.
Still, reinforced umbrellas have been selling like hotcakes in recent days, and self-defense courses are suddenly popular. It was inevitable that something would happen on the MRT eventually, given its popularity and the number of people who take it every day; it’s a shame it had to be this, but Taipei is a big city, with a big heart, and hopefully this terrible incident won’t change that.