Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Memories of 7/7

I'm listening to Tessa Jowell's rather moving speech at the memorial service for the 7/7 victims in Hyde Park. I have seen pictures of the memorial and to me it strikes just the right note. There's a certain majesty about it.

Those of us who were in London on 7 July 2005 will always remember the events of that terrible morning. So many of us knew people who were caught up in the mayhem that ensued. In July 2006 I wrote this memory of that day, which I thought I'd share with you again, and maybe encourage you to share your own.

I don't know if you remember where you were on the morning of the 7th July last year when you heard the news of the terrorist bombings in London. I was sitting at my desk in the House of Commons (for the uninitiated, I was working for David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary) and a colleague popped his head round the door to say there was something on the radio about a big bang in a tube station. Shortly afterwards Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson arrived to do a feature interview with David. Gradually news started coming in that there were several attacks. I kept interrupting his interview with news. I rang home and rang my parents to reassure them I was OK. I began to get calls from friends.

My work colleague began to get hysterical about her son, who she feared might have been on one of the trains. She rang his school and he had not arrived. As the morning wore on, and she couldn't make contact with him, even I began to fear the worst. But I had to make a decision. I was trying to coordinate our response and ensure the office ran smoothly, yet my colleague (and very good friend) was becoming hysterical. Did I try to soothe her or did I do my job. I'm slightly ashamed to say I chose the latter and 'delegated' the former. Hard bastard, I thought to myself. Her son rang to say he was OK shortly afterwards.

None of us knew what it all meant. The thought ran through my mind that if this was a repeat of 9-11, our office wasn't exactly the best place to be. It was located almost directly under Big Ben. But you just get on with your job. David Davis was the coolest man in London. If ever I doubted his leadership qualities, they were on full display that day. Alice Thomson and Rachel Sylvester would confirm that.

David then had to respond to Charles Clarke's statement in the House of Commons. We were glued to the TV. He caught the mood of the House and gave a speech which even his enemies had to admit was striking.

The next day, I was walking along the Embankment to work with the sound of helicopters and Police sirens ringing through the air. I remember thinking to myself: "This is not the London I love." I felt as if I was walking along a street in an alien city. I admit that a tear rolled down my face. Would life ever be the same?

A year on and life has returned to normal - until the next time. But what's normal anymore? For some, life can never be normal again, because they either lost family or friends on 7/7 or they themselves lost limbs. And it is them who I think of as I write this. And in particular, I think of Rachel from North London - a blogger who has had more effect on people than she probably realises.

So, why not share your memory of that day with everyone?


Anonymous said...

I will always remember that by the end of the day it had been revealed that a rehearsal of a terror attack on the London transport system was being run by Visor Consultants. I have been sceptical of the whole event ever since, whilst retaining the same level of anger as everyone else, that someone deemed it acceptable to take innocent lives for their stupid and twisted 'cause'.

Plato said...

I had been working away from home for weeks and had the booked to go into London for a meeting later that day.

I was listening to Matthew Bannister when it all kicked off and will never forget a caller who rang in to say their friend has just survived the bus explosion.

Matthew was clearly floored and said the BBC would need to check it out. The caller almost in tears said, you don't need to - my friend was there.

My most profound memory though is of the 2 mins silence - I was driving on the M25 when everyone just slowed down and stopped mid-lane...

Sean Haffey said...

From what I have seen on TV, the memorial is just right.

stuart said...

For all his faults I remember Ken Livingstone delivering a brilliant response. I have tried to find it on the internet since but with no luck. It was a wonderful defence of what makes London a great world city. Perhaps the best moment of his mayoralty.

Anonymous said...

Indeed Sean the memorial seems just right.

Unlike that for Princess Di - which of course was managed by 'you know who'.

Angela said...

I live in a quiet Surrey village, but my daughter lives in London. My experience is probably different to most. My daughter managed to telephone me to assure me she was okay, by five minutes since she had gone into work early. I didn't know what she was talking about, I had been out early with no access to media. Her boyfriend missed his usual bus because he overslept, otherwise he would have been on it. It took us a while to realise this, just as it had taken a while to know what happened to friends/relations in the Twin Towers. Some we lost, some we kept. So between them, her devotion to work saved her and his lack of it saved him. I don't know what to make of this. Both of them had friends caught up in it. Pure luck? When it's your time, it's your time?

Whatever, I hate this government with its kowtowing to terrorists and their useful idiots, its refusal to extradite them while happily extraditing a confused man who took advantage of lousy security on US computer systems to explore the existence of little green men.

I have lived through previous Labour Governments, which similarly bankrupted the country, but you could at least say they were principled, even if mistaken. 'Principled' is not a word you would apply to this lot. I won't even get started on the Speaker they voted in....

Nick said...

I drove into London that day, from Epsom. I noticed that Barbican station (near where I park) was closed, a sign saying “Electrical explosion”. After I got to work the news, gradually, came in that it had in fact been a series of terrorist explosions. Yet my enduring memory of the day is the hundreds and thousands of commuters who that afternoon and evening set off to walk, either to their homes or to whichever main line station they needed to use. There was no panic, no sense of alarm (other than the almost continuous wail of police sirens that somehow sounded louder for a few months), just British people, knowing that a terrible event had occurred, calmly making their way home. I was proud of my country.

Anonymous said...

But who were these "terrorists?

Ramp said...

But who were these "terrorists?

July 07, 2009 1:34 PM

If you want the answer to that question dont bother looking on the bbc's website.

Ramp said...

But who were these "terrorists?

July 07, 2009 1:34 PM

In fact i'm having a hard time finding the answer for you anywhere anonymous,not the telegraph or the mail its not in the times either as far as i can see.

James Higham said...

This lip service still covers up the glaring anomalies and the lack of an enquiry. We need two immediate things:

1. An independent 7/7 enquiry;
2. A referendum on Lisbon.

The Purpleline said...

I remember the day as if it was yesterday, I froze and just watched endless hours of Sky News, feeling totally useless not able to help or stop the carnage. I have questioned my own feelings and tried to put myself in the place of the victims loved ones. What would I have done what would I do, if Islamic terrorists physically harmed my family, would I be able to stay within the law, would I be responsible for my actions.

I believe our political system has in the past & is still failing us the good people of the UK. We are simply cannon fodder voters, get to vote every 4-year’s and do not give the mushrooms anything in return. We do not have a voice, only a tribal support for a party, I would bet the majority of voters have never even read a manifesto, they vote in general for a ‘what’s in it for me’ collection of policies from bankrupt parties, literally in Labours case. It is obvious the people want the return of the death penalty and a lowering of the evidence threshold to convict a terrorist, among other strong measures.

In my mind, an MP should represent his electorate regardless of the party line
if his electorate wishes by a majority for the restoration of the death penalty, the vote should not be about party lines or their own personal conscience, political ideals. This is wrong and, is part of the reason for driving the wedge between the people and our elected elite who should function as clean representatives of their electorate. A pure democracy, where the majority position is taken forward and, then debated in parliament.

What I am calling for is a form of independence for MP’s working collectively under their own party umbrella on policies. With freedom allowed in certain specified areas for direct citizen representation and action. Citizen power enacted through their elected representatives.

The Purpleline.

Simon Emmett said...

I've blogged about my recollections of the day over on my blog. I was a duty manager for London Underground, and evactuating the immediate area around Aldgate. Including the stations under my command and the trains in the tunnels, near to the bomb site. The things I saw that day will stay with me forever.


Anonymous said...

I remember thinking that this would eventually occur in the UK:

The Purpleline said...

On the monument, I do like it, it is simple and yet very poignant. However, I do believe they should have some kind of reference to the 700 injured in the attack.

Perhaps 700 glass pebbles imbedded in the monument to represent those people as well.

However, by the actions taken by the Labour government, we have all become victims of this terrible atrocity. Our freedom has been denied us by labour in that aspect I am sure.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that those alleged responsible at the time are, it would appear, 'censored'.

The unwarranted deaths of innocent British citizens reinforced in many their anger and strong opposition to Blair's decision to invade Iraq with the US. Many, rightly or wrongly, viewed the attacks as possible acts of reprisal.

In one day in London on 7/7 the British suffered the horrific realities of being 'invaded' and killed by strangers as they went about their daily lives.

Anonymous said...

James Higham,

There was an enquiry conducted at the time - standard British procedure. The findings, however, may have been 'politically sensitive'.

JPT said...

The country changed that day.

Pete said...

Big fan of the monument, I will be quietly taking it in on my run home from work this evening. Been going past it on the bus watching it being constructed, only recently i've realised what it is.

As for the day itself, I was in a bizarre position of working for Sky, essentially being paid to watch TV, so having arrived in the office around 8am and turned straight on the first thing was the release of an electrical surge causing an explosion, swiftly followed by a denial of any electrical explosion by the electricity board, then Sky news went across to one of their reporters, on her mobile, who had just watched the top of a London bus blow off. It was all incredibly surreal. The office around us was going crazy, news helicopters taking off, people unsure whether they should be staying at work or going, everyone's mobile phones veering between not working at all and not stopping ringing.

Much like a poster above, one of my most vivid memories is after the event. I took the tube to work the following morning and where there would normally be a scrabble for seats and a lot of people standing I was sat on a carriage with one other person. Eerie doesn't even come close.

Another very vivid memory would be the evening of 7/7 when my father called me to tell me him and my mother were splitting up having been married for 30 odd years. His closing line was a stonker: "it could be worse, you could have been blown up today".

Safe to say today isn't the most pleasant of anniversaries for me, but my thoughts are reserved for all those who suffered a lot more immediately than I ever have.

Anonymous said...

It was, of course, very sad and devastating for those immediately involved. The memorial is a fitting tribute.

But within a week more people had been killed on Britain's roads. And the again the following week. Equally devastating for all concerned but not newsworthy, less still a reason for a memorial, because it happens all the time. This lack of a sense of proportion is curious, albeit understandable.

I well remember spending a lot of time in Belfast during the troubles. Back in those days Britons took it all in their stride. We managed without draconian terrorism laws and everyone went about their business unimpeded. The government didn't try to frighten us with hyped up scare stories.

We would do well to return to those ways.

Sean Haffey said...

My big concern is the effect on our freedom. This country has a fine (though far from perfect) record in defining and legalising individual liberty. 7/7 amd 9/11 have been used as excuses to curtail this freedom.

I do hope that the early months of the Cameron government will sweep away many of these ill-conceived laws and give us back much of our freedom.

That will be a different way of remembering 7/7, but just as important.

Iain Gibson said...

I was working for a Tory MP at the time with a desk in Upper Committe Corridor North. Making the journey from Hertfordshire into London, we were suddenly stopped and herded off the underground at either Farringdon or Blackfriars (my memory fails me here).

Walking along the Embankment to Westminster, there was absolute confusion and incomprehension - at this point we all thought there had been a gas explosion somewhere. There was an unspoken fear it might have been something more sinister, but such thoughts were not grounded in any evidence.

Arriving at Westminster there was a huge queue to get into Portcullis House, and once I was in the palace building, it became clear an act of evil had taken place. It was also the first time anyone had mentioned something about a bus exploding as well.

The rest of the day is a bit of a daze, I don't remember getting any work done as all eyes in all offices were glued to the news channels. Plenty of people were trying to phone loved ones to let them know they were okay, myself included, although the phone networks were down for long periods of time.

In the evening I walked to Blackfriars with my then boss, amidst a huge group of ashen faced people. IIRC we were redirected to City Thameslink. Eventually, after several hours, I caught a train home. The mood in the eerily quiet carriage was one of bafflement and sadness, yet steely resilience as well.

To the 52 who lost their lives that day - RIP.

chris said...

My heart goes out for the victims of that terrible attack and I have no objection to a suitable memorial - perhaps plaques of names at the stations where the outrage took place.

Where I do have reservations is whether we should keep adding more and more of these memorials to the London parks. The current fashion for memorials is filling the parks up with so much scrap iron: they look more like tank traps than memorials. The greatest memorial to all Londoners would be to leave the parks alone.

Anonymous said...

was in tenerife with my mates as he had just done a-levels, he had just had a massive night out because of london winning the olympics, then finding out hung over in a cafe watching sky news whilst eating a full english

Dimoto said...

Just two years have passed since 7/7. Long enough for several posters to have forgotten that the perpetrators were British born, and that their explicit "excuse" was the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Several Tory headbangers on here, not only think that those two were great ideas, but also that Iran should be added to the list.

Anonymous said...

Dimoto - 4 years.

Desperate Dan said...

I cycled into central London the next day and it was absolutely deserted. I had a coffee in the 7th floor restaurant at Tate Modern and I was the only person there. I had a window seat overlooking the Thames and the whole place to myself.
It was as though the population of London had been reduced by 75%. I loved it.

killemallletgodsortemout said...

I do hope that the early months of the Cameron government will sweep away many of these ill-conceived laws and give us back much of our freedom.

Would you like a wager that this won't happen?

Tachybaptus said...

Chris 3.15:

Strongly in agreement. I've been past the memorial while it was being put up, and thought it was the scaffolding for a new ventilator for the underground car park. It is also just like the wretchedly bad New Zealand war memorial just over the road on the Hyde Park corner island, except that it is upright instead of slanted. Both show the total aridity and lack of inspiration of what passes for design these days.

If you want to see a good recent memorial, half a mile away in Grosvenor Square is the monument to the British dead in the World Trade Centre. It is a small, beautiful, plain, oak columned Doric temple flanked by more columns that form a pergola. On the architrave, the apt and moving comment by the Queen, 'Grief is the price we pay for love.'

The structure offers shaded seats (and, prosaically, a gardener's shed at the back), so it is also useful. But it is much more than that: though it does not say so, it is a precise re-creation of Vitruvius' 'primitive hut', the basis of all classical architecture, and a powerful symbol of the Western values that are now threatened by barbarism. I don't think any other design could say so much with so little.

As for the park, apart from the hideous, malfunctioning Diana drain it now has four monuments to that utterly trivial woman.

What next, a monument in the park to the wretched Michael Jackson?

Jonathan Cook said...

In the office we were listening to early reports on the radio that their had been electrical explosions on the Underground.

Once the truth became evident the phones were ringing with people checking we were OK. We were mainly fielding international calls for foreign colleagues from various times zones, from India to Brazil and all within 30 minutes of the confirmation that this was a terrorist attack.

We were advised not to leave the building. Our office being right next to an open air part of the Circle line. The Aldgate bomb would have passed right under our noses.

The only noise outside was sirens everywhere and a police helicopter. Whereas the previous day it had been the Red Arrows we could hear celebrating winning the Olympics.

Later in the day I walked back to the train station. London was deserted.

At our commuter station everyone traipsed off the train. It felt a bit odd that we were counted off the train by police officers with clipboards.

On returning to London there were armed police everywhere with machine guns. The randomness of the attack became increasingly apparent after I noticed that the small printers in Chancery Lane had an A4 page in the window mourning one of their staff who had been killed.

Today I still keep my copy of the Metro newspaper from that morning in my desk drawer. The people on the trains and bus would have been reading the celebratory news of the Olympics in that paper when the bombs went off.

JuliaM said...

I was at work, and the news that there had been a 'electrical incident' on the Tube was just coming in on the BBC radio news and website.

Then, as it transpired that it was an attack, I remember the same sort of panic and misinformation as on 9/11. Two buses, or one? How many Tube trains? Are they evacuating Canary Wharf, or not?

And then, of course, the De Menezes fiasco...

Salmondnet said...

Dimoto: Whether or not the invasion of Iraq or the intervention in Afganistan were a good idea is irrelevant and the fact that the terrorists were British born reflects badly on them, not the rest of us (not even Blair, though I loath the man). Having ancestry from elsewhere does not give you a right to determine British Foriegn policy by direct action. They had access to the ballot box like everyone else. That should have been enough.

The same, incidentally, goes for Tamils in Parliament Square and all the other groups who pursue their special interest in other countries without wanting to live in them.

Quiet_Man said...

I was working in a printroom in Crutched Friars (near Aldgate) when the bomb on the tube went off. I was at the Sugar Quay when it was confirmed it was a terrorist attack. Oddly enough because the printroom was below ground level, my mobile lost its signal and it wasn't until I emerged from the job at hand that it started constantly ringing from family, friends and work to make sure I was ok.
I also remember the journey home to Kent, forced to head south of the river and in a massive jam as people simply left. Pale faces in cars and vans all listening to the radio some in tears.
The media might have decided to forget who the enemy was, but I haven't, nor I suspect have millions of others like me.

Anonymous said...

I was watching this on the BBC today. Strangely nobody mentioned the "M" word. It was as if the people had been killed in a train crash.

Anonymous said...

Ive a hard time coming to terms with anyone associating Tessa Jowell with the word "majesty".

Who would have thought McPonzi's personal nanny would have achieved such plaudits?

In case the MSM have forgotten said...

Bloody Muslims.

ollybarratt said...

I was working at capital fm at the time as a journalist/newsreader and was due in late to do the drivetime shift. But I got a call from my boss asking me to get in as soon as possible to help cover some kind of huge story involving an accident on a tube, possibly a power surge. So, having no idea what was going on, I jumped straight on a train to waterloo. When we arrived there it became clear jumping on a train had not been the best idea ever and that something awful was developing.
The day at work remains a bit of a blur as we tried to bring londoners up to date with what was happening in our city. But I'll never forget walking home that day and seeing thousands of other londoners doing the same - I'll also never forget the journey into work the next morning as we showed the world we wouldn't be defeated by terrorists. I came up the escalators at leicester sq tube at exactly the time the first bomb had gone off the day before and feeling incredibly proud to be a londoner. I've blogged a bit more about this today at fsnreportersblog.com

Anonymous said...

I was in Birmingham at the time on a business visit, my wife was a scientist at Imperial College who was completing her PhD, she commuted and and still commutes to London every day.

It was a day of worry, as I could not reach her for a long time. When I did and I knew she was OK my heart was overcome with joy, yet I knew that many other people were not so fortunate and I remember and think of those whose lives were lost and whose relatives and friends morn for their passing.

In Birmingham, I was fully supported by colleagues and staff. This reminded me that whatever our divisions- rural verses urban, London verses the provinces, when our country is under attack the British people are resolute in defence of their country and way of life.

The terror attacks of 7/7 united left and right in their revulsion and reminded me of the dark days of the second and first world wars, which my grandfather who fought in both had reminded me of, when all groups within our country came together to face the common foe- and like then we do not give up or surrender, but fight for our rights and liberties.

In short the so called Islamic terorist picked the wrong chap to have a fight with !

British Patriot said...

The fight goes on.

As the saying goes, if they don't like it they know what they can do.

Three Muslim men who poured petrol through the letterbox of a publisher who they had heard was printing a controversial book about the Prophet Muhammed were today each jailed for four and a half years.


Anonymous said...

I remember having to get off my tube at Embankment because of 'an electrical failure' then being allowed back on. I got to my destination and then they closed down the system entirely. I remember thinking 'great we get the Olympics and can't get the tube to run, the French must be laughing their heads off' Once I got to work and we realised what had happened I spent a lot of time trying to text friends to check they were ok. We lost one member of staff and I later found out I knew of 3 other people who had lost a friend, relative or colleague, in a city of seven million we are all so close without knowing it.

Anonymous said...

here you go,Stuart - Ken said...

'This was a cowardly attack, which has resulted in injury and loss of life. Our thoughts are with everyone who has been injured, or lost loved ones. I want to thank the emergency services for the way they have responded.

Following the al-Qaeda attacks on September 11 in America we conducted a series of exercises in London in order to be prepared for just such an attack.

One of the exercises undertaken by the government, my office and the emergency and security services was based on the possibility of multiple explosions on the transport system during the Friday rush hour. The plan that came out of that exercise is being executed today, with remarkable efficiency and courage, and I praise those staff who are involved.

I'd like to thank Londoners for the calm way in which they have responded to this cowardly attack and echo the advice of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair - do everything possible to assist the police and take the advice of the police about getting home today.

I have no doubt whatsoever that this is a terrorist attack. We did hope in the first few minutes after hearing about the events on the Underground that it might simply be a maintenance tragedy.

That was not the case. I have been able to stay in touch through the very excellent communications that were established for the eventuality that I might be out of the city at the time of a terrorist attack and they have worked with remarkable effectiveness. I will be in continual contact until I am back in London.

I want to say one thing specifically to the world today. This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful.

It was not aimed at Presidents or Prime Ministers. It was aimed at ordinary, working-class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Jew, young and old.

It was an indiscriminate attempt to slaughter, irrespective of any considerations for age, for class, for religion, or whatever.

That isn't an ideology, it isn't even a perverted faith - it is just an indiscriminate attempt at mass murder and we know what the objective is.

They seek to divide Londoners. They seek to turn Londoners against each other. I said yesterday to the International Olympic Committee, that the city of London is the greatest in the world, because everybody lives side by side in harmony. Londoners will not be divided by this cowardly attack.

They will stand together in solidarity alongside those who have been injured and those who have been bereaved and that is why I'm proud to be the mayor of that city.

Finally, I wish to speak directly to those who came to London today to take life.

I know that you personally do not fear giving up your own life in order to take others - that is why you are so dangerous. But I know you fear that you may fail in your long-term objective to destroy our free society and I can show you why you will fail.

In the days that follow look at our airports, look at our sea ports and look at our railway stations and, even after your cowardly attack, you will see that people from the rest of Britain, people from around the world will arrive in London to become Londoners and to fulfil their dreams and achieve their potential.

They choose to come to London, as so many have come before because they come to be free, they come to live the life they choose, they come to be able to be themselves.

They flee you because you tell them how they should live. They don't want that and nothing you do, however many of us you kill, will stop that flight to our city where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another. Whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail.'


RIP those murdered, hope and healing to the injured and peace to all, with big special thanks to the emergency services.

disillusioned Dale blog reader said...

I was on a Northern Line train that was going through Moorgate but wouldn't stop.

It was a fairly scarey day and I had 3 pints of Stella at lunch to calm down!

I must admit, I think that it confirmed that I will at some point leave London forever because all of us living on top of each other is a)pretty silly really and b) not necessary in the internet age.

My heart goes out to those who were injured and the relatives of those killed.

Dimoto said...

Anonymous said:

"Dimoto - 4 years".

July 07, 2009 3:33 PM

Err, correct. Sorry !

Dimoto said...

Salmondnet, I agree with your post.
I was pointing out that "deporting these terrorists" was not a very sensible suggestion.
As for foreign policy, 7/7 was a cost of a foreign policy decision. Blair either thought it a cost worth paying, or a risk worth taking.

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P Power said...

Anonymous said...
"I will always remember that by the end of the day it had been revealed that a rehearsal of a terror attack on the London transport system was being run by Visor Consultants. I have been sceptical of the whole event ever since ..."

What is your problem? Your 'rehearsal' was a desk exercise carried out by a handful of people in a meeting room in London. One of many carried out by or on behalf of private companies all the time.

Ex-SuperiorLibraryAssistant said...

Not to be offensive or denegrate anyones loss or upset people who experienced that day, but...

I live in Bradford. That day had been coming since Honeyford. Sorry if this upsets or offends anyone.

The truth often does...

Chalcedon said...

I remember exactly where I was on the morning of July 7th 2005. Sitting on the wisteria terrace of the Rock Hotel in Gibraltar, being told about the bomb outrage in London and going inside to watch Sky News. I should have been in London on that morning but allowed myself to be dragged off to Gib instead. I remember feeling just a little guilty because of where I was and where else I might have been.

troymolloy said...

I'd love to know why the memorial 'cost' £1m as the media are dispassionately reporting. I could just about believe £10k in materials and a £25k fee to the designer, but one MILLION pounds? Who exactly has made such a shedload of money out of this project?

WV: apall (seriously)