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Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Quatermass and the Pit

I would have not known that yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the bomb outrage in London on July 7th 2005, without the Beeb broadcasting the service of remembrance from St Paul's.

In one sense it was good that I didn't remember it. Why should I? It was after all 10 years ago and I wasn't immediately affected. Life goes on; life thankfully barges death aside and more personal memories crowd in. Many of them happy ones.

It was a funny summer that of 2005.  We won the privilege to host the Olympics in 2012; England won the Ashes (what chance this year?) and London was rocked by suicide bombs.

"07/07" I hate that expression, just as I find the shorthand "9/11" for the atrocity of 11th September 2001 offensive. It's lazy with no distinction between those frightful dates and "24/7".

We were tangentially affected. We travelled on the Victoria Line to work and it goes through King's Cross. On that morning we were on the tube as usual, sitting reading the paper - strange to think it was before smart phones and wi-fi on the Underground.

None of us on our tube were aware of the dramatic events that were taking place as we travelled from Walthamstow towards Victoria via King's Cross. I think we stopped outside King's Cross for a while, but nothing exceptional. When we got into the station, something was happening. We were told to get out and take the exit.

As we climbed the escalator, there were loads of people, with wounds to their faces and limbs.  I said to Lesley that the escalators must have failed and thrown people all over the place. When we got to ground level, it was unreal. It was like a scene out of a disaster movie. Emergency services everywhere. And all these people being treated for  injuries.

We had no idea what was going on and were told to move away immediately. Now I know that they wanted to get us away from the area because there might have been another device. They couldn't tell us that or no doubt we'd have panicked.

We headed down Warren Street,  towards the Strand and Whitehall. As we did so we heard a muffled explosion. I turned to Lesley and explained that it was probably one of the power circuits over loading. It was the bus, about 200 yards away, exploding.

We still had no idea what had happened. I was still of the mind that it was an unusual Underground mess . As we reached St Martin's in the Field the New Zealander we'd spent 20 minutes speculating with received a call from her mother in Auckland. The World Service had said there'd been a bomb on the Underground in London: was she safe?

As I recall, that news just went in, no effect, and we headed for work. When we got there the place was quiet, many people hadn't managed to get to their office. The Permanent Secretary made an appearance and told us to think about getting home since the tube network would be disrupted more than usual.

I walked the 3 miles to Liverpool Street station, along with half London's commuters. We passed mile long bus stop queues, and loads of city types in bars waiting until matters settled down.

It was a sunny, hot day. Nothing unusual in that. If the evening was very hot I'd often walk to Liverpool Street rather than die of heat exhaustion on the Underground.

I arrived home and 3 hours later my wife come in. That was it.

Yet it had hit home. For ages if I saw an Asian with a rucksack on the same carriage as me I'd get off.

That's how corroding the effect of the 7th July 2005 was. But  then we held the 2012 Olympics and most of the country went bust in 2008 and we had other things to worry about.


Steve said...

As a weird counterpoint, the 7th July 2005 was the day my wife and I went into town to buy our engagement rings after she'd agreed to marry me... though the connection hadn't stuck with me until my wife pointed it out a couple of days ago. Somehow my mind had temporally separated the two events though they'd occurred on the same day.

Mr and Mrs said...

We were moved by this recollection of these terrible events. Agree about the numbers thing. 7/7 is a shopping chain in America.