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Wednesday, July 07, 2021

London bombings - 16 years on

I originally wrote this blog post on the 4th anniversary of the London bombings in 2009 when I worked in London.

It's worth reposting. 

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 know how lucky I was that day. I know. I was one of thousands of Piccadilly line commuters who, if we’d left the house a couple of minutes earlier / later / hadn't stopped to buy a paper, could have been on the tube train which exploded between King's Cross and Russell Square tube stations.

When I did eventually reach central London that morning, I then walked to work past Tavistock Square where the bomb on the bus exploded later that morning. I heard it from my office.

The memorial oak tree in Russell Square park flourishes and grows and at 8.30am today there were already flowers laid at its base in memory. I stood in silence and thought about those who died, their families, before picking up my bag and walking on with a lump in my throat.

I have some horrible memories of the morning of July 7, 2005 which I won't write about here. However, my abiding memory comes from the day when the Piccadilly line reopened after many weeks of being closed after the attack. Only a handful of commuters went to work by tube on that first day. I forced myself to be one of them, despite how hard it was.

I was one of only three people in the tube carriage all the way from north London to King's Cross. At King's Cross, my husband got off to go to work. He kissed me on the cheek and asked if I'd be ok. I said I would be. I had to be. The two remaining passengers in the carriage left King's Cross on the tube, we didn't look at each other. I got off at Russell Square station which was newly painted, scrubbed sterile, and took the lift up to the ticket hall. With me in the lift 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 to the ticket hall only to be 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.

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