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.
Do me a favour. Even if you think what I've written above is a load of rubbish, visit her Blog. And perhaps you'll understand why it makes me a little emotional.
So that's my memory of 7/7. What's yours?
I remember that I was on my way back to school from Watford with friends, when we saw this sign as we were driving along the M25. School was in chaos as everyone desperately tried to call their parents (St Albans is a big commuter town, nearly everyones parents passed through Kings Cross each day), luckily everyone turned out to be safe who we knew. The images we saw on the television at lunchtime were devastating and perhaps were even more frightening than those of 9/11, due to how close the events were to us.
I work for London Underground, and was in command of the area next to Aldgate, evacuating the public from the network.
At one point I found myself escorting people from the tunnel, and from my position I could see the circle line train that had been blown apart.
Those images still haunt me to this day.
We must never forget, and they must never win.
It is hard to believe a whole year has gone by. I can recall every little detail of that day, despite not being directly caught up, but on a tube train unable to get off at King’s Cross due to what was at that time thought to be a ‘power surge’. I then spent the morning in a café, heeding the warnings from Sir Ian Blair not to move, and listening to the news unfold on the radio with the back-drop of never-ending sirens outside.
What has been good to see today is packed tube trains, just as normal. I suspect many, like me, thought it might have been a good day to avoid travelling on the underground, but refusing to let terrorism disrupt our lives is perhaps the most powerful weapon we have.
I was in Liverpool St having a coffee when the police very calmly cleared us out.Went to the office rang my mum and was then cleared out of there too.We had heard at the time of the 'power surge' on the tube but then the ambulances and walking wounded began to pass by and the awful truth became apparant.
Went to a cafe and watched Blairs speech and was strangely moved by him perhaps for the first and last time.the calmness of all in the City struck me profoundly that day.I was very proud to be British.
I've posted mine over at my gaff. Not that it is especially exciting.
I went to Rachel's blog and didn't like it at all. Where was the anger? Where was the fury? It was a perfect portrait of passive Britain.
I work in an office that more or less sits on top of the tube line at Liverpool Street, but the single most striking memory I have was coming to work the next day. There is an arcade of shops at the Metropolitan line entrance to Liverpool St tube station, and one of the shops is a heel bar. In the poster display, the owner had put up an English flag, with the words emblazoned: "Shaking with fear? My a*se", asterisk included in the original. Somehow it was a very English reaction to a day of horror, and one I could identify with completely.
I was driving on the M11 headed for a meeting. News was filtering through on the radio and I was in phone contact with a colleague and friend, who was also en route to the meeting. The fact that the network kept falling over made us both feel that things might be much worse than the radio accounts suggested.
O/T My experience of hearing about 9/11 was completely surreal as I was at the dentist's having some rather complex work done. My dentist and his nurse had radio 2 on and the unfortunate Steve Wright was trying to make sense of what was happening, between playing The Corrs and similar. By the end of the session it had become clear that it was pretty dreadful. As I rinsed with that strange pink stuff my dentist commented "Well, I think we'll both remember this appointment for quite some time."
This is my memory and reaction to the anniversary of 7/7. A year later and the feelings have not changed one bit.
What I've been puzzled by all year is this. On the Friday and Saturday after the bombings, the 7/7 bombings had been spread out across an hour or so. The newspapers were full of big sketch maps showing each location and the exact time at which the bomb went off.
Then suddenly, on the Sunday, we were told that all the Tube bombs had been simultaneous; and that's been the story ever since.
We all know that communications are pretty garbled at the time of a major calamity like this (Thursday afternoon's story of "7 bombs" was a classic example). This is understandable.
But today we live in a world of blogs, texts, emails-- a connected world in which information gathering and dissemination is in the hands of the people as a whole and not of a few harassed media organisations. Any misinformation is instantly corrected by the sheer mass of true information flooding in across the Internet. [For example: during some World Cup games the Wikipedia entries of the players were being updated minute by minute as play progressed].
So - we know that in our new communications age, false information cannot survive for long: especially false information which (as in this case) can be instantly contradicted by hundreds or thousands of eye-witnesses.
And yet the false information survived for 60 hours or so. What happened? Does the blogosphere really not work the way the pundits portray it? Or were the true facts established early on but ignored by the Old Media?
Any serious participant in the blogosphere has to consider why it failed its first big test.
I am afraid I remember thinking it an affordable price for globalisation. Pinpricks. Don't know if that was the right thought.
Wasn't at all scared of them or their muddled un-Islamic philosophy. Scared of the bureaucracy's power grab they would enable, which has proved to be the case. Have we all gone soft. We suffered casualties of 1 in a million.
I was supposed to be coming up to London to meet a friend, who had just come back from America. He rung me just before I was about to take a train into London saying he had been ordered off the tube at King's Cross and that there was something serious going on.
So I stayed at home, like so many people, and watched the events on television, powerless to do anything.
I organised a meeting at my office for a whole bunch of people who normally work in central London - we were outside the M25.
We all watched the TV with mounting horror as all the people at the meeting would have been on the tube lines effected normally.
Sadly one of their team was on the bus, simply because the tube was blocked and she was going to be late fir work. Never normally got the bus
A very sad day.
Forget all the Prescott crap or the rest of the corrupting effect of nuLab last days. If you want a real scandle just read this from The Friday Thing about how the compensation "works"
If ever proof was needed that The Government Is Not Our Friend,then the treatment of the survivors and the families of the victims of the July 7 bombings is surely it. Today being the first anniversary of the bombings it's worth looking back on the treatment of the people who simply had the misfortune to board the wrong tube trains or bus last summer.Those fortunate enough to emerge alive, many with terrible injuries, both physical and psychological, were met with official incompetence, ignorance, suggestions of culpability in future attacks and, on one memorable occasion, outright hostility. The testimonies of some of the survivors to the London Assembly's7 July Review Committee are a good place to start -http://tinyurl.com/j6jdg.
As many as 6,000 people who walked awayfrom the scenes of the bombings may have been 'severely psychologically affected' but most are not known to the authorities in the absence of formal assistance. They've had to form their own support groups. Three hundred of those injured in the bombings are still waiting for their much needed (and let's face it, paltry) compensation to be agreed.
Danny Biddle who sustained many injuries, had to decide which were the three most severe as that's all the compensation system will consider. 'It's like going through an Argos catalogue,picking the most expensive things,' he said. Both of his legs, an eye and his spleen added up to just £118,332. According to theCriminal Injuries Compensation Authority system, the loss of an eye is worth £27,000. They then take 70 per cent off that if it's your second worst injury. Danny put the loss of his legs first.So that was £110,000 for his legs, £8,000 for his eye and £332 for his spleen. He's still waiting for the money for his spleen.Dewhursts the butchers would have shown more sensitivity. Smaller things also stand out, adding to the sickening feeling that the survivors were overlooked, forgotten or sidelined while the Government got on with creating headline-catching initiatives to appease the media (and yet of the 64 recommendations made by the task force put together last summer to tackle Islamic extremism, only one has been given the go ahead by the Government). VIPs were invited to the Government-organised memorial service at St Paul's but not, until they complained, thes urvivors. One Australian survivor was visited in St Thomas'Hospital, with its view of Westminster, by the Australian Prime Minister but nobody from the British government. She's still waiting to be contacted by British government officials. 'We have had more contact from Australian MPs than we have had from British ones... The answer is: if you are going to be in anemergency, make sure you are not British,' said her partner. And then there were the inevitable insults to add to the injuries. The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith refuses a public inquiry on the grounds of how much it might cost (The Bloody Sunday inquiry, for example, is spiralling its way to the £400 million mark). This from a government happy to throw a quarter of a million quid at the Millennium Dome, throw Kilimanjaros of cash at ID cards and shoddy computer systems, allow tax avoidance to cost the nation between 25 and 85 billion pounds every year, fork out £25 billion on redundant nuclear weapons and £2 million a year on an even more redundant Deputy Prime Minister. By way of twisted coincidence, Gordon Brown announced this week that there will be no cap on military spending. At a meeting with some of the survivors who are requesting a public inquiry into the bombing, two-fisted Home Secretary John Reid sensitively asked them how they would feel explaining to the families of future bomb victims how a public inquiry had diverted attention and resources away from investigations. One survivor's father approaching the then Home Secretary Charles Clarke at a meeting to ask why there was to be no public inquiry was told,'Get away from me, I will not be insulted by you, this is an insult'. (In another display of empathy, while dismissing survivors' calls for additional compensation, he also compared being blown up on a tube to being 'stabbed outside a pub'.) To make matters worse, in the absence of any official support,some survivors have had to, by themselves, fend off voracious conspiracy theorists and journalists. Survivor Rachel North has become a focus, via her blog, of much media attention. She has had to deal with a stalker and a legion of conspiracy theorists who simply refuse to take the facts at face value. Some of them have even imaginatively accused her of being a team of MI5 disinformation agents. (For the record, we should note that we met Ms North recently. We can vouch that she is definitely just one person, charming, urbane and, most importantly, free with her fags. It's not breaking any confidences to note that she works in advertising which possibly makes her the Devil but we won't hold that against her here.) On the question of a public inquiry, the government's refusal to hold one gives tacit approval to the investigation into the bombings being conducted by gossip. The inquiry into the intelligence failures in the run up to the bombings, along with their causes and ramifications, have been left to the media via anonymous police and MI5 briefings and leaks (although John Reid is now looking to stop all that with amendments to the OfficialSecrets Act removing the defence of leaks being in the public interest - the problems won't go away, we just won't hear about them any more). This serves to stoke even more resentment and paranoia while eroding further the Government's vestigial reputation as a straight dealer and fuelling the not unreasonable suspicion that it has something to hide. And that's before we even arrive at the vital conclusion that getting to the heart of this atrocity might just prevent another one. The survivors don't want glory or publicity; it's a matter of sparing others what they themselves have been through in the last year. The conclusion we should take from this is a straightforward one.Maybe too straightforward for these cynical times. Helping thevictims' families and the survivors, and preventing futureatrocities, is about simple compassion, reaching out to those inpain. (There are those who disagree. 'I hate all that shit,' saidone commenter, worried about where his taxes are going, on TheGuardian's Comment is Free blog.) Put plainly though, it's aboutwho we are and who we want to be. There but for the grace of Godand all that. But it's also about, and this is where Blair should get on board,it being his catchphrase, Sending A Message. Paint it in lettersa hundred feet high. Honour the dead and comfort the living -demonstrate in all the ways we can that we're better, higher,more civilised beings than the creatures who took their rucksacksto London on July 7 2005 and those who might choose to followthem.
nu Lab are a stain upon this countries honour. Shame on the lot of them
I am not going to go into my memories of 7/7 because that is a waste of everybody'd time. I should, however, like to ask why anybody should think that financial compensation of whatever size should make up for the loss of a parent/child/sibling? Is that what we have been reduced to - money for everything?
Btw Iain, I have seen Rachel's blog before. I fear, I do so fear that the old stiff-upper-lip, Captain Oates, blitz spirit is dead.
henry mayhew? I'll pass...
I remember arriving at Kings Cross just as the station was being evacuated. An incredible number of people spilling onto the street, overhearing calls on mobile phones about other stations being closed, but taxis still dropping people off at the station. Seeing a woman sitting crying in a door way with soot on her face, being comforted, but even then me and others not realising what had happpened. Walking to Russell Square to see whether it was possible to catch a tube from there. People gathering outside a coffee shop watching Sky News, and then seeing the emergency vehicles - one after another - rushing to Tavistock Square. Walking towards the Square, a strip of plastic cordoning off the area, several buses stopped and empty.
I was in front of a trading screen nursing a short position on the FTSE100 futures contract that was seriously underwater and sinking. I was toying with the panic button when the chart took a vertical dive of well over 100 points and 'seriously underwater' suddenly turned into 'seriously profitable'. About 30 seconds later my ticker showed the
first news of the bombs. Lesson? Market makers get their news quicker than anyone else - even if only by a few seconds that's enough to crash any price when their bids are pulled in sync.
Sorry to sound a mercenary note but you did ask and frankly, stuck out here in the sticks it really wasn't until the evening news bulletins that the real horror of it all struck. Still feel a bit guilty about it though.
On the wider issue of the 'war on terror'; there have been over 3,500 people killed on our roads - 70 times as many as claimed by terrorism - in the past year so, in strict risk terms my counsel is a rational (as opposed to the Corporal Jones type) 'don't panic', because panic will produce even more Charles De Menezes's and Forest Gates' and is totally counter-productive. It is also of great assistance to a government intent on taking away ever more of the individual freedoms that are supposed to distinguish Western societies from those allegedly intent on destroying them.
Helen - D'accord. That was the point of my comment above, as well. Has "this bulldog race" really disappeared within a mere nine years?
Everyone's so passive. So accepting. Looking to make a sentimental gesture, like placing teddy bears outside the homes of murdered children. Looking across the miles at Britain, I do not recognize it.
I was at home that day and I remember seeing a newsflash just before Nine AM mentioning an explosion in the Underground. Don't ask me why but my first suspicion was that it was a bomb.
Then as more news came through and the enormity of what had happened began to sink in, I started ringing, texting, and e-mailing friends who lived and worked in London. One aquaintance I later found had a narrow escape, being on the Russell Sq tube but a carriage away from the suicide bomber in question.
It was a day I found difficult and painful, and yet like many, within a week I was using the Underground. Nervous, tense, concerned that I might be travelling to my death, but determined not to cow tow to terrorism. Many others did the same and standing up to the terrorists by continuing our daily lives is paramount, but let us not forget those who were not as lucky as we were!
Sorry Anonymous. That's what I thought at the time - why does that make you angry? Living in a city you're surrounded by noise and confusion all the time. I met a friend as I walked past Holland Park tube station who told me he couldn't get on with his 10 year old son to go to the cricket at Lord's because there had been a "power surge". He is OK, I am OK. That's it. We are all going to die in the next few decades anyway. P.S. Why do you have to be anonymous? What are you afraid of? I am sorry that people were killed, and I am sorry they get run over too. Is that OK with you?
I also work in the House of Commons. It was strange because you were in one of the safest buildings in the country but also one of the biggest targets.
I remember police cars screaming past me as I walked into work. I remember telling someone in the staff cafeteria that it seemed if there had been a tube accident but not to worry as no one was hurt.
I remember when suddenly it became clear that this was a terrorist attack and then because the phones were all down I e-mailed my mum to tell her that I didn't know what was going on, that anything could happen and that I loved her. In seconds I got an e-mail back saying, "I'm out of the office until Monday 11th July". It made me laugh.
You can't have it both ways- which do you prefer- foaming at the mouth anger at the 'Slims again, or a rational sense of decorum about the matter?
I don't think Rachel North particularly expects anybody to be 'impressed' by her blog. If somebody has a legitimate reason for being aggrieved or upset in a particular way, I'm not going to berate them for not doing it my way.
Personally, I'm rather impressed with the way we dealt with the events of the 7th July (not '7/7', please- it's not a bloody product that needs branding). I found a sense of humour and even a modest reserve amongst people. Frankly, I have little reason to be scornful of them.
I was sitting at home in west London that morning, blogging and writing emails and, as normal, had BBC News24 on. It had just gone 9 o'clock or so and it was all about London getting the Olympics. They had a reporter outside Stratford tube station who was attempting to interview people to get their reaction to the great news. As they cut to him, he reported with a little embarrassment that the Tube station was actually closed, and there were a few jokes about how lucky we were that it hadn't happened the day before as we mightn't have won etc. etc. He spoke to a few people nonetheless about the Games, and then they cut back to the studio.
At that point they then began reporting that a few tube stations were closed, as a result of a 'power surge' at Algate - "strange" I thought, but naturally made nothing of it, but kept an eye on the news to see what was happening.
News filtered in of the 'power surge' having caused a couple of simultaneous bangs, and at that point, around 9.25 my flatmate, who was on his way to a big job interview and who had been kicked off the train at Earl's Court, called to ask what was going on. I told him that apparently it was due to a power surge and nothing untoward, but that I would keep him posted if I heard anything else.
At that point I decided to flick to Sky News who, while occasionally a little off the mark, are normally the first with any breaking news, and at 9.50 or just after they took a phone call from one of their producers who had been driving through Russell Square and was on the line telling about a bus that had just blown up. I flicked back to the BBC - they had nothing on this - and back again to Sky. The guy was talking about the smoke and the bang and people running and shouting about the exploding bus, and I have to confess I completely panicked, worrying about my flatmate.
I knew he would be trying, whatever the odds to get to his job interview, and I also knew I only had a very small window of time to get him on his phone before the mobile networks would go down. I grabbed the landline and managed to get him on the third or fourth attempt. I told him about the explosion, during which time unconfirmed reports of further explosions on buses were coming in. I told him just to go inside somewhere, sit down with the paper, and wait for police instructions or watch the news. His response was that he would try and see what work said (stupid sod, you see what I mean?!). I told him not to be so stupid and just stay there and he kind of agreed. I tried to get through to two other friends who I thought might be travelling at that point, as there were reports of several bus bombs at that point, and did manage to get through to one before the phones went down.
I phoned my family in Ireland and boyfriend in the USA, so that they wouldn't turn on the news late/wake up and get worried about me, and at this point I was shaken. My voice was trembling as I told them what was happening but that I was fine, safe in my flat and going nowhere. I couldn't help but look across the trees and roofs towards central London and wonder and dread what was going on over there.
I sat glued to the TV, and eventually my flatmate made it home - much sooner, in fact, than I had imagined. Bus services outside central London resumed with commendable speed, and a little emotionally drained we headed to the pub for some food and a pint to discuss the day's events and, naturally, watch more TV news.
After several beers we came home, and in a funny way what he said encapsulated for me London's response, as we both headed to our rooms for a 6 p.m. nap: "They can bomb our trains and buses, but they'll never take away our ability to get pissed in the afternoon and nap."
Amen to that.
James asks: "You can't have it both ways- which do you prefer- foaming at the mouth anger at the 'Slims again, or a rational sense of decorum about the matter?"
I don't "prefer" either of the limited options you propose.
In the light of those awful events, I "prefer" firm action to not be "understanding" about "the Muslim community".
Blair should have been warning "the Muslim community" - if we must have such a canker on our society in preference to integration - to get control over their aggressive young men and malcontented, ignorant and spiteful imams or face the wrath of the British government.
James: "Personally, I'm rather impressed with the way we dealt with the events of the 7th July...".
Yes. Me too. The ordinary people. The government's report card, however, is something you never see these days: a big F. Failed in every respect.
I said on the day, there should have been an immediate cold lockdown on mosques. Every mosque in the country. For two weeks. No exceptions. The government should have been seen to be in absolute control of our country.
Instead, a vapid and frightened prime minister went on TV and warned the blameless British people in their own land not to take reprisals. He should know that that is not our way. But he's weak kneed and fears to offend because his worst nightmare is being "unpopular".
A cold lockdown of mosques. Big police locks on the doors. DO NOT ENTER. Video cameras. The elected government is in charge; not you.
James again: "I don't think Rachel North particularly expects anybody to be 'impressed' by her blog."
Iain recommended that we visit this blog and I did and did not find anything in it I could relate to. I mean no offence against this lady's blog. It didn't speak to me.
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