Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Memories of 7/7

On 7 July 2006 I wrote this memory of the events of July 7 2005. I thought I'd repeat it here. Feel free to share your own memories.

I don't know if you remember where you were on the morning of the 7th July 2005 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'm sorry there is no official event to allow us as a country to remember those who died in the biggest terrorist atrocity ever seen in Britain.


Unsworth said...

"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."

So demonstrating that it's always best to Keep Calm and Carry On. We, the British, are at our best with our backs to the wall. Every time such a disaster occurs it is astounding to see total strangers taking care of those who have been injured or worse. There are some days when I believe we have not actually lost all concern for our fellow man, but it takes events and anniversaries such as this to remind us.

Oh, and Rachel's blog is excellent.

eoghan said...

I was campaigning at the Cheadle by-election. It was supposed to be a big day for us because Charles Kennedy was coming to rally the troops. We were all sitting in campaign HQ waiting for CK to speak to us, then the mutterings and rumours started to come through. CK arrived looking flustered and talking earnestly to his inner circle. Eventually someone told us that he would liked to have said hello to us all, but that he had to start preparing for a response to the prime minister's statement - I never found out if he just went into the kitchen and switched on radio 4 to hear the statement, or if there was some more sophisticated system. We took the rest of the day off campaigning for obvious reasons.

I remember at the time all that could go through my head was "how can there be a bigger story than winning the Olympics?" Two of the biggest news stories in the country in the whole decade, in the space of 24 hours.

I absolutely hate the term 7/7 (especially spoken "seven-seven") by the way, makes it feel like 9/11's little brother.

I knew the inspector who was in charge of the initial police response at Russell Square - he later got an MBE for his (their) efforts.

NickolasB said...

Driving the 10 miles to home on the M1 in Yorkshire, all the signs said "London Closed". They made clear more than any TV or radio report the scale of the atrocity.

Breaker said...

In every office I've worked in since, in the City, there's been a minute of silence.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure there should be a commemoration event.

Why do terrorists let off explosions? Well, to terrorise us of course.

But in the final analysis, 'so what'? If Hitler had thought he could win WW2 by blowing up 50 civilians what would our response have been/ Why, to laugh in his face I think.

V2s and the loss of 60,000 civilian lives did not cause us to surrender in WW2 and there is no commemoration ceremony to them.

The tragedy of these terrorist events is they are pointless - they will achieve nothing. They never can they never could they never will. They exist solely as acts of self justification. There is no real defence against them except to ignore them.

I suggest reading Joseph Conrad's 'Secret Agent'

Penfold said...

And in the 5 years that have passed no-one has done anything positive to deal with the internal terrorist issue.
We do not deport radicals, we allow radicals into the UK to preach their hatred, we have made no headway with the Muslim community.
It's a shambles and what is most surprising is that a further similar atrocity has not occurred.
We now find that the constant drip of complaint against the security services has finally taken root and an enquiry is to be undertaken. An enquiry into alleged torture or complicity in torture. The complainants? terrorists. Doh.
As no-one ever had recall to the first introduction of black propaganda, always blame the other side of having undertaken nasty things to deflect from your own complicity in nasty events.
It is quite clear that muslims still believe the myths that are spread, the propaganda that insidiously blackens the West and Christianity and support the aims of organisations such as the Taliban and Al Quada, in its multifarious forms.
The 5th anniversary of 7/7 should be our chance to lay down the law and establish permanent ground rules. Adopt, adapt and assimilate or go, voluntarily or otherwise.
Instead we get an enquiry which will be used as a propaganda event and will do untold damage to our reputation and ability to deal with radicals.

I despair.

Danny Law said...

well i think it is awful that David Cameron is not taking part in some kind of ceremony to remember the dead and injured of 7/7 - its like they dont matter to the government.

and i think the reason is political - no one in the establishment wants to draw attention to WHO planted the bombs - ie muslim 'extremists'.

they are aware that there is a lot of unhappiness in this country with the way islam is being allowed to spread and i suspect they want to do everything in their power to damped down such resentments.

i am pretty sure that if these bombs had been planted by a far right group or animal rights 'extremists' or any other terrorist group then we WOULD be having a memorial today. but becuase the bombs were planted by avowed muslims - then lets sweep it under the carpet and hope it goes away

Simon Gardner said...

I am sorry the main lesson still hasn't been quite learned:

Religion is dangerous; it kills people.

Scary Biscuits said...

Iain, you've missed the whole point of Gove's reforms. It's not that I disagree with you on teaching kids grammar; it's just Gove has realised that enforcing diktaks, however well meaning, from the centre, simply doesn't work. Give schools back to the local communities they were stolen from by socialists. Then let them decided for themselves what to teach and how.

Scary Biscuits said...

BTW, Iain, you are much better at grammar than your arch rival, Guido. He keeps abusing his commas, using them instead of full stops or semi-colons, making some of his posts difficult to read.

Andrew Ian Dodge said...

Here are my reflections on 7.7. It was 7.7 and its aftermath that inspired Cry Freedom by my band Growing Old Disgracefully.

The band came very close to losing a dear friend and supporter. He was train away from one that blew up (ie if he had missed his tube he would be dead).

The King of Wrong said...

the biggest terrorist atrocity ever seen in Britain

Really? The (single) bomb in Omagh killed nearly as many people as all four 7/7 attacks put together.

In terms of damage caused, the Baltic Exchange bombing (£800m in 1992 Pounds) and the Bishopsgate bombing (£1bn in 1993 Pounds) are still unequalled.

Of course, the IRA and its splinter groups aren't 'real' terrorists...

Rich Johnston said...

I got a call to get off the bus from the good lady wide, as we crossed from Waterloo. I persuaded everyone to get off, and we, en masse walked into work. It was rather good, shared experience at all. At work, by lunchtime, everyone was just watching the news so we decided we could do that from the pub. So we went out and got drunk.

I remember thinking that London should get bombed more often.