Friday, July 07, 2006

One year on

Inevitably there's one event dominating the blogosphere today. Amongst the many blogs discussing it are, in no particular order, Anorak, Keeping the tab on the tabloids, Slugger O'Toole, Dodgeblogium, An Englishman's Castle, Politics through the eyes of a teenager, Jo's Journal, Mars Hill, Kerron Cross - The Voice of The Delectable, Take back the voice, Paul Linford and Iain Dale.

My own memories of the day are mixed. The night before a friend had been crashing at my flat as he had been working too late to return home to Coventry. I think this was the first time I alerted him to existence and usefulness of the Gospel Oak to Barking Line which allowed him to travel from Holloway Road to Forest Gate (the stations are Upper Holloway and the misleadingly named Wanstead Park). Otherwise his route would have taken him via the Piccadilly through King's Cross and the Circle Line at Liverpool Street. The next morning he set off at about 08:20 and I got a bite to eat, then flicked on the television at about 09:00 to catch up with what was going on. Later I planned to go down to Mile End to do some work in the library.

It was around this time that reports were coming in of widespread problems across the tube due to "power surges". I thought to myself how lucky it was that I'd told Joe about the railway line, otherwise he might get caught in a tunnel (the GOBLIN mainly runs on viaducts above the street). I then went to tell my flatmate there were problems as, unusually, he had to go into central London that day en route to a course somewhere in Reigate and he might need to leave some extra time. Then I heard the television announce the problems were more serious and there had been explosions.

I sat down at my computer (next to the television) and opened up a mass MSN window with every single contact I had online. For the next few hours I just stayed in the flat, alternating between catching up on the television, making phonecalls to check friends were okay and sharing information online.

Maybe it's my degree, but I think I'd realised before the announcement that this was a terrorist attack. The "power surge" story just rang hollow - I couldn't understand why several explosions had occurred in very different parts of the network all at once. No this was clearly a co-ordinated attack by terrorists on London.

Much of the rest of the day passed in a blur. My flatmate and I set things up to use one phoneline for the internet and the other for phonecalls so we could keep in contact. I received a few "are you okay?" calls and sent out some emails. My flatmate had his course rescheduled because of the travel problems.

The thing that worried me the most was the number of people I knew who either worked in Bloomsbury or who could have been on one of the trains hit. Whilst the actual attack hadn't shocked me as I could remember the last IRA campaign all too well (at the time I was at school in the City and we regularly had bomb alarm drills), the possibility of those I knew being caught in them was concerning. Fortunately I was able to reach everyone eventually, but the difficulties of ringing to and from mobiles that day made many anxious.

It was one of those days when one felt London had pulled together. The emergency services were magnificent in their response and there was a real sense that all communities were united. What was saddening was to hear people like George Galloway being given airtime so they could dance on the victims' graves and use the event as an excuse to make their usual rants. Fortunately very few listened.

One year on I'm not sure much has changed. Maybe people are a little more cautious about abandoned packages and cases but has London stayed together? Current tensions and fears, especially both towards and amongst the Muslim community, enhanced by the notorious innocent shootings, have shown that the metropolis is still deeply divided and there are times when I think things are getting further apart. That would be to let the terrorists win.

1 comment:

Contemplative Activist said...

I wonder if it is your degree, giving you an awareness of how these things usually pan out.

I heard about the "power surges" standing in the Students' Union shop buying an orange juice on my way to work. I knew then something very untoward was happening in London.

Even before the news broke out that London had been attacked by terrorists, I had already called my family to let them know I was not in London and to check to see if anyone else might be.

Aside from the families and friends of those who were killed or injured in the attacks, I do wonder if the greatest victims have not been our Muslim communities? The suspicion and fear against them has been alarming.

But then again, maybe all of us who live in a society were we don't feel able to trust our neighbours are victims. You are right, we need to come together as a community.

Perhaps we also need to remember, that what happened in London last year is a daily reality for many people across the world.


PS. We had bomb drills at school too - unfortunately, we were all far too blase about the whole process - and kids used to fake them by filling lunch boxes with coloured wires from the technology labs to get out of maths tests!


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