7/7: we will never forget them

6 Jul

Today is seven years to the day that the UK won the Olympic Games, which for millions of Londoners means two things.  One, the obvious, that we are now awaiting the start of one of the greatest shows on earth, taking place on our doorstep.

And two, that tomorrow marks the anniversary of the atrocity that claimed fifty-two lives and shook our capital city out of its general feeling of ‘not in my back yard’, I guess a false sense of security that gets us through our daily lives in many many ways, rather than always glancing backwards dreading what might be the inevitable, but one that is not there in the same way anymore.

I worked at Edgware Road in 2005; daily I left L1, then very tiny, and travelled in to central London always thinking about when I would get home to her that night.  I never thought that there would be the chance that one night I wouldn’t.  Not in my back yard.  As ever, I was early to work that day; I missed the horror and devastation by a good 40 minutes, but I had colleagues who came into the office dusting their jackets wondering what the residue on them was – for a long time that day, remember, we believed it was a power surge.

The day passed trying to get a mobile signal, tracking down loved ones, working out late-running childcare, and desperately trying to figure out how to get home, with the building on sign-out-sign-in access only and all of us glued to the TV or the internet waiting for the picture to become clearer.  From our vantage point, horribly transfixed, we watched the brave and dedicated doctors and nurses from St Marys Paddington running down the road to Edgware Road station, the crush and crowd and ambulances and police vehicles at the entrance to our tube station, and as a more complete picture unfolded, from a personal and a professional perspective I thanked God that while what had happened had touched my life and, yes, as an atrocity worked to change it (we moved to Kent as soon as we could after it happened, although I continue to commute every day) it had not devastated it as, unlike so many other poor souls that day, I had not lost anyone I knew.

M walked from Oxford Circus to collect me that night, and together we walked home to Walthamstow and our tiny girl in the gathering dusk, two of hundreds, probably thousands, in the crowds flowing, virtually silent, buoyed by kind shop keepers standing on the side of the road handing out water – it was a very hot day – and shouting good wishes as we passed.  Once home, the miracle of children, and life went on, the ultimate distraction, for L1 needed a bottle, a bath, a story, a super-long bedtime cuddle (of course, after that day), and the usual singing routine.  For her, 7/7 was just a day when Mummy and Daddy were a bit late and happened to pick her up together, which rarely happened.  This was one of those landmark days that hammers home the simple fact that, it is true not a cliche, that life goes on, because there is the next generation who expect it of us.

Carrying this with me the next day, I went to work on the Tube, as ever, and I thanked the brave LU staff who also came to work to support us in an atmosphere of intense, palpable fear.  Because for the sake of those tragic 52, and because I believe we owe it to them that such acts of terrorism must not beat us, life had to go on.  And each year, on the equivalent of today, tomorrow, and Sunday, they will be always central in my thoughts and prayers.

 

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