Friday, July 07, 2006

7-7. One year on.

7-7 Anniversary Edition

One year on.

Let me recall it simply as I remember it.

It began around 9.15 or 9.20. A right wing shock jock on the radio called Nick Ferrari reported three tube trains and a bus had been affected by "power surges".

That's what they called it. "Power surges".

It was the inclusion of a bus that made my eyebrows lift. How does a "power surge" affect a bus?

The truth is that we had been waiting for it. We had always expected it to happen. We had always known that it would be the underground that they would hit.

I walked with a friend in the park at 10am, and we both discussed that we thought it was probably suicide bombers - at this point it was still unconfirmed.

When I returned from the park and attempted to use my mobile phone all lines were down. By this time, around 11.30am, the radio was confirming that London had been attacked.

Blair, as I remember, was in Gleneagles with Bush and other world leaders holding the G8 summit. He said he would fly home immediately to London. I remember wondering, "Why?"

What did Blair hope to achieve by flying into a city that had been bombed? Did he hope to comfort us? To reassure us?

To this day I believe he flew here hoping that we wouldn't blame him. For in his heart of hearts he knows that we wouldn't have been a target had he not so keenly aligned himself with George Bush's foreign policy. He vehemently denies this. He says that the Iraq war had nothing to do with why we were attacked. He says that they are attacking our freedoms and our way of life. Which is, of course, a nonsense. There's a reason why they are attacking us and not, say, Sweden. Sweden isn't invading Muslim country's.

I had lunch with a friend at a restaurant where we regularly eat. By now the news was much more specific. Four bombs. Three tube trains and one bus. London was closed.

That was the term they used. Closed. I saw it as we passed a shop whose window was full of TV sets for sale. They had a shot of a sign over the M1 motorway advising motorists, "London closed. Turn on your radio."

My city was closed. Bin Laden had closed us.

And yet, where I stood, life went on around me.

My real memory of that day occurred around 4pm as I was returning home. I was sitting at a set of traffic lights.

I can still see him.

A man in his thirties talking animatedly into his mobile phone as he crossed the road. He wasn't talking about the bombs. He was arguing. Somebody had annoyed him and he wasn't having it. He was giving it to someone with both barrels.

And I suddenly got terribly moved. He was a Londoner. He didn't have time for sentimentality or tears, he was simply getting on with it. His parents and grandparents had lived through the blitz, it would take more than four poxy bombs to distract him. London had lived through 38 years of IRA attacks and she had never been cowed, and she would not be cowed now.

Back home I switched on the TV and there stood Ken. Our mayor. Red Ken. The man Blair had begged us not to elect as he was too extreme. We all ignored him and elected Ken anyway.

His eyes were full of tears. His voice was choked with emotion. But when he spoke, he spoke for all of us.

"This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful; it is not aimed at presidents or prime ministers; it was aimed at ordinary working class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christians, Hindu and Jew, young and old, an indiscriminate attempt at slaughter irrespective of any considerations, of age, of class, of religion, whatever, that isn't an ideology, it isn't even a perverted faith, it's just an indiscriminate attempt at mass murder, and we know what the objective is, they seek to divide London. They seek to turn Londoners against each other and Londoners will not be divided by this cowardly attack... I wish to speak through you directly, to those who came to London to claim lives, nothing you do, how many of us you kill will stop that flight to our cities where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another, whatever you do, how many you kill, you will fail."

And a phrase came back to me. I don't know when I first heard it, but it's truth reflects the stoicism of the city. "No war was ever won by bombing London."

London is a state of mind in the same way that New York City is a state of a mind.

When I went to bed that night I remember thinking of how New York City, the very place that had been attacked on 9-11, was one of the few cities whose populace had marched demanding that Bush and Blair did not attack Iraq. They had, despite their heavy losses, maintained their perspective.

And I remembered a sunny February morning, two years earlier, when two million of us had marched through the city of London demanding that Bush and Blair desist from their planned invasion. We marched that day reflecting the cosmopolitan reality that is London. Every race, every creed, every religion and every sexuality was represented.

And yet still al Qaeda attacked us.

Perspective. We must always hold on to our sense of perspective. It came with the thought:

"In Baghdad, this would be considered a good day."

And there's the truth. We will, rightly, hold our minutes silence today and reflect on our losses. But we should never forget that in Iraq the events that we are commemorating are far too commonplace to ever be remembered with such ceremony.


Kel said...


I moved this to the top of the page - as most people only seem to read the first three stories... if that much - and realise that I've somehow deleted your comments and my response.

The mobile network were taken over by emergency services so suddenly no mobile phones anywhere in London were functioning.

It was all rather eerie.

Indeed, the first mobile I saw working was the guy crossing the road at 4pm.

Cyberotter said...

I crossed your great work in my roundup this week. Great job with this topic. Funny though as I was writing your segment I realized I have no idea what gender you are. Help please?