Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Four years on, London remembers 7-7.

It's hard to believe it's four years since the 7-7 attack. And yet, today is the fourth anniversary.

A memorial has been constructed in Hyde Park and, later today, the relatives of those who died will attend a ceremony to watch it being publicly unveiled.

Architects Carmody Groarke wanted to convey the random nature of the loss of life - how it could have been anyone travelling in London that day.

Director Kevin Carmody said the firm worked closely with the families through monthly liaison meetings to ensure the finished product was what they required.

"It took a long time to get to the strong ideas like symbolising the single and collective loss of life," he said.

He said 26 of the columns - known as stelae - were grouped to represent those killed on the Underground near King's Cross.

Other clusters represented Tube bombing victims at Aldgate and Edgware Road, with the remainder symbolic of those who died on the number 30 bus in Tavistock Square.

"Hopefully people will have an almost magnetic propulsion towards it," said Mr Carmody.

He said it could be viewed from afar as a single entity but that as they moved closed, people would discover the significance of the four groupings and individual columns.

We all remember where we were that day and the way the news eventually broke. At first the radio spoke of power surges on the underground, but that always struck me as false as there was also talk of a bus being involved. Gradually, as the day progressed, the full horror of what had transpired began to become clear.

It was a day when one was struck by the heroism of ordinary people, people who themselves had been injured, but nevertheless spent most of that fateful day helping others who had also been hurt.

On the first anniversary of the bombings I witnessed a scene at the bottom of my road where all of the local shopkeepers, and the mechanics from the local garage, and the firemen from the nearby station, all lined up for two minutes silence on the pavement outside their workplaces. I was struck that day by London's undeniable multiculturalism. Every colour was represented and, I am sure, every religion. The Protestants stood with the Catholics and the Hindus and the Muslims and the Jews and the atheists. All of those people, whether religious or not, making the point that a terrible wrong had been committed and, the fact that London represents such a melting pot of religions and races, only brought the point more forcibly home.

It is no great surprise that London has simply kept going. The city that endured the Nazi's blitz and 38 years of IRA attacks was not going to be deterred by four bombs from Islamic extremists.

There is an old saying: "No war was ever won by bombing London". And the city will today reaffirm that truth, even as it momentarily stops to remember it's loss.

Prince Charles and the Minister for London, Tessa Jowell, will address the unveiling ceremony on Tuesday, before the names of the victims are read out and a minute's silence is observed.

The prince will then lay a wreath on behalf of the nation while the Duchess of Cornwall will leave a floral tribute for the families.

I don't know what the bombers hoped to achieve, but they failed. For, having stopped to mourn her loss, London will then immediately keep moving forward as the wonderful, unprecedented experiment in multiculturalism that she truly is.

Today I can't help but think of how right Ken Livingston got it when he reacted to the horror of what was unfolding:

I want to say one thing specifically to the world today. This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful. It was not aimed at Presidents or Prime Ministers. It was aimed at ordinary, working-class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Jew, young and old. It was an indiscriminate attempt to slaughter, irrespective of any considerations for age, for class, for religion, or whatever.

That isn't an ideology, it isn't even a perverted faith – it is just an indiscriminate attempt at mass murder and we know what the objective is. They seek to divide Londoners. They seek to turn Londoners against each other. I said yesterday to the International Olympic Committee, that the city of London is the greatest in the world, because everybody lives side by side in harmony. Londoners will not be divided by this cowardly attack. They will stand together in solidarity alongside those who have been injured and those who have been bereaved and that is why I'm proud to be the mayor of that city.

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."
Four years on, Ken's words still speak to most Londoners soul's. We love living in the melting pot, we love the multiculturalism of London. It's what makes this city one of the most exciting places on the planet to live.

And, four years after that terrible day, Londoners have not changed. The city has not been cowed. And the tube trains are still running.

As I say, I don't know what they hoped to achieve by attacking us, the city in which two million souls marched to try and prevent the Iraq war; but, whatever it was, I feel sure that they have failed.

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