The tour guide was shocked. She expected 45 Americans to arrive at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. Only 19 showed up. They told her about the warnings, the fears, the precautions being taken in the United States.
``All this because of terrorism?'' she asked. ``They can't be serious.''
This attitude may be surprising, since terrorist violence has affected Europe almost every day lately. Yesterday a bomb exploded in front of a British Airways office in London. On Wednesday, a videotape was delivered to a newspaper in Lebanon which alleged to show the killing of Alec Collett, a Briton who was kidnapped in Beirut in March 1985.
Faced with rising terrorism, governments and individuals across Europe are taking stronger antiterrorist measures.
But in contrast to the US, terrorism incites little public fear in Europe. Life goes on at the normal pace. Vacations are not canceled. Conversation tends to center more on the consequences of the US bombing of Libya and the fear that it will create dangerous new tensions with the Soviet Union, rather than on the terrorism that preceded it.
``Wars, dangers, and violent upheaval are part of the European heritage,'' says Prof. Sabino Acquaviva, a specialist in terrorism at the University of Padua in Italy. ``The United States doesn't have this tradition.''
Experts trace the modern techniques of political violence back to the early years of the 19th century. It reached a peak with the activities of the Russian anarchists. Ever since they exploded bombs in the streets of St. Petersburg (one of which killed Czar Alexander II in 1881), Europe has suffered periodic waves of violence.
One US diplomat now based in Paris recalls his shock at first coming to France during the 1960s.
``I never heard of bombs blowing up in streets,'' he recalls. ``Then I arrived here. The OAS [dissident French Army officers protesting Algerian independence] exploded several bombs every day.''
Page 1 of 4