On my way to work this morning, I walked through Russell Square Park just like I’ve done for almost every working day of the seven years I’ve lived in London. But this morning I took a different route through the park to stand by the oak tree planted as a memorial to those who lost their lives in the London bombings, four years ago to the day. I was one of thousands, I'm sure, who, if we’d left the house minutes earlier / later / hadn't stopped to buy a paper, could have been on the train which exploded between Kings Cross and Russell Square tube stations.
The oak tree flourishes and grows and at 8.30am this morning there were already flowers laid at its base in memory. I stood in silence and thought about those who died, their families, and thought some silent thoughts before picking up my bag and walking on with a lump in my throat.
My abiding memory of that time four years ago comes from the day when the Piccadilly line reopened after weeks of being closed, and only a handful of commuters went to work by tube on that first day. I got off at Russell Square station which was newly painted, scrubbed sterile, and took the lift to the ticket hall.
With me were only half a dozen or so commuters, two were in tears, another was being comforted by a Transport for London worker and it was obvious from their tearful conversation that the passenger was the parent of a young person who had died in the blast. We all rode the six storeys together in the lift, some of us holding back sobs, some openly weeping.
The lift doors opened, we turned the corner to head through the ticket hall and were met by a barrage of television cameras and a large, booming member of the Metropolitan police urging us: “Come on, ladies and gentlemen, big smiles for the cameras! Big smiles, you’re on TV! Come on, ladies and gents, let’s see those smiles!”
None of us smiled.