Tuesday, 7 July 2015

London Bombings - ten years on.

The explosions in London ten years ago are front and centre in the Media today. 

The morning of 7 July 2005 was meant to be a happy one for London. The day before, there were celebrations as the city was named the host of the 2012 Olympic Games.
But the mood in the capital changed just before 9am that morning, when four young suicide bombers attacked the public transport network, killing 52 passengers and injuring hundreds more
The resulting death, life changing injury  and acts of heroism by public and emergency services alike are well documented and those records stand as a testament to the bravery, solidarity and courage of everyone involved in events of that day and the resulting investigation to trace the motives and genesis of this awful act of terrorism. Londoners Stood up and said we will not be cowed by this attack on our values and home.

Mine is not a story of loss or injury and I count myself very blessed that I was unharmed by any of the blast, that I through God's providence missed being on the tube line that morning. I had been given a new role at Work and so had made an extra effort to get in early to make a good impression with my new manager and so I entered the tube network about twenty minutes early. Two colleagues who come from the same area called in minutes after I arrived to say that there had been a fire on a tube in front, they two had missed tragedy because a bus had got stuck under a bridge on their way to the station.
The sheer enormity of what had  actually happened only began filtering through that next hour. The nature of my work meant were all confined to the office and so we were left watching events unfold as the truth of what had happened seeped into our consciousness.

I am sure that most cities that  have subterranean public transport understand what it is to go underground with the knowledge that for those minutes between stations, you are pretty much at the
hands of fate. Power cuts, people falling ill  or just someone out of their wits on alcohol or through mental illness can all be amplified as you hurtle through the dark under  the city streets, even something as silly as bad body odour can make those few minutes seem indeterminable, and like the victims of the saran attack in Japan, being trapped underground and in peril must be utterly terrifying and I cannot imagine just how horrific it was for those people who were not killed outright when the explosions went off. 

What made it worse is that  here in London our underground is actually a symbol of solidarity and of safety. During the Blitz those tunnels were a place of refuge, becoming a camp for the folk of London to escape the bombing raids raging above. People brought flasks and sandwiches, teddy bears and Cards and life went on, in spite of the attempts to disrupt daily life by those out to take our freedoms away.

The nature of our Transport system is that if the Tube goes awry, we have a bus network that can take up the slack and anyone who has ever seen footage of the chaos on buses when there is a tube strike will know hundreds of  people will queue for an hour to get onto a hot crowded bus to get from A to B, but the secondary bomb on the bus at Tavistock Square just blew our idea of safety on public transport  right out of the water, the iconic London Bus, the thing that folks like to see when they come to the capital had suddenly become a symbol of death. The bombers had cut at the very heart of our capital, we were bleeding, we were scared and we were bewildered.

We were all at a loss as to what to do and really that is what terrorism seeks to do, discombobulate and put a spanner in the works of normal folk's day. To call the UK a Christian Country is wrong really, and in the case of the Capital the sheer number of ethnicities who inhabit the city is pretty hard to quantify, so the bombs were not going to affect elitist White Christians, the infidels murdered were from every race and creed. This was not about religion it was about power. The normal Muslim people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria are equally under attack from the radical extremists, this is not and never was about Islam, but about a misogynist minority intent on curtailing the freedoms of any who dare to speak out for freedom from tyranny.

The West is the embodiment of  freedom and whatever your political, religious or social viewpoint to live here is a gift far too few are truly cognisant of. Instead of arguing our petty differences, we should be uniting against the kind of opinion that results in tragic events like the Twin Towers, Boston Marathons Bombings and the London Bombings.  A Right to live freely, to go about our daily business without impediment should be available to everyone AS LONG AS WE  HARM NO OTHER.  The events ten years ago went against everything in that idea and if we had allowed ourselves to live in fear they will have really struck a blow , but thankfully the goodness in human hearts that supersedes Religion prevailed.

When it became apparent that no more bombs were likely, people in Central London were faced with a thing unheard of, no public transport in the centre.  So began the strangest exodus I have ever witnessed in my life. People walked.  The centre was weirdly quiet despite the private cars driving around, there were no buses and all the tubes were gated and locked. People began to walk  to train stations in the vain hope that suburban services would still run or to local hostelries and restaurants  to wait it out.  Personally I began the slow, hot eight and a half mile  walk back to my home and that three hour walk revealed to me many things.

Londoners are tenacious, thousands of us began our own personal treks, starting in packs  and slowly  filtering out as we all made our own individual decisions as to how to reach our destinations. Luckily for me, I had to follow two bus routes so as long as I followed the bus stops I could not go far wrong. There was an eerie quietness, everyone seemed to have the same determined trudge in the centre of town, once outside of the centre slightly, the hopeful started congregating at bus stops  and doing deals with each other, breaking into geographical groups willing to share cabs , people who might never have spoken to each other in a normal bus queue, who might have just have easily been pushed out of the way in clamour to board a bus were now doing their best to work together. It is after all  the constant need of Londoners to  GET THERE FASTER, How else do you explain the need on tube services that runs a train every two minutes, to crush into a gap smaller than themselves and have their  nose crushed against the glass of the door to get on this train…   but here they were now joining together in common goals

Londoners were stopping their cars in Camden and offering groups lifts and in a Spar store  on my walk towards Finsbury Park, they were giving out water to frazzled walkers for their onward journey. Everyone was asking about what is was like in the centre and we were all thankful that we were able to get  out of there even under our own steam. We  finally spoke to loved ones as mobile networks had gone haywire, reassuring them of our safety, told our individual stories and watched in horror at the scenes of carnage on the news, but guess what...? 

The next day people; despite massive trepidation, boarded buses and the tube lines that ran.  Those of us whose journeys were impossible due to the investigation and clean up, walked right back into central London and picked up where we had left off. Every one of us took a stand for London, for Freedom.  We bravely decided that terror would not win and although we watched our fellow travellers like Hawks, we travelled , London Triumphed over Terror.

Seven years later, London was host to one of the most successful Olympic Games of modern times, there were no terrorist attacks, very little crime and the Brits did a great job of being welcoming to all the nations we were hosting, whatever ever the Terrorists thought they were achieving did not take root in London .. Life went on and whilst every one of those lives damaged or snuffed out were tragic losses, the terror that the actions  of the three bombers was  designed to bring never really materialised. Instead we just became just that little bit harder, resilient and sadly a little more distrustful of our Muslim bretheren when indeed people should be making more effort towards tolerance and acceptance.

I pray that shared grief and remembrance will draw all of London closer today.

Timeline of Events.
04:00 Mohammad Sidique Khan, 30, Shehzad Tanweer, 22, and Hasib Hussain, 18, leave their rented flat in Leeds and drive to Luton.
05:05 Jermaine Lindsay, 19, the fourth bomber, arrives at Luton station, and sleeps in his car until his accomplices arrive.
06:51 The four men are reunited in the car park of Luton station, and are seen taking rucksacks from the boots of their cars, each containing between two-to-five kilograms of explosives.
07:23 The four are seen among commuters catching the Bedford to Brighton train that stops at King's Cross. They are described as smiling and looking relaxed. The train, delayed, leaves at 07:40.
08:23 The train arrives at King's Cross and the bombers disembark. they are seen hugging, and then split up. Khan goes to board a westbound Circle Line train, Tanweer an eastbound Circle Line train and Lindsay a southbound Piccadilly Line train. Hussain also walks towards the Piccadilly Line entrance.
08:50 Tanweer detonates his bomb between Liverpool Street and Aldgate, killing seven people and injuring 171. Khan is seen fiddling with his backpack before it goes off near Edgware Road, killing six and injuring 163. Lindsay is on a particularly packed service between King's Cross and Russell Square, and kills 26 passengers, with more than 340 more injured.
08:55 Hussain walks out of King's Cross station. and tries to contact his friends via mobile phone. He then buys a 9-volt battery from WH Smith before heading across Euston Road to McDonald's.
Meanwhile, the first British Transport Police arrive at Aldgate and Russell Square.
09:12 Emergency services begin to arrive at all three scenes. At the same time, London Underground issues an amber alert, instructing all other tube trains to stop at the nearest safe, available platform.
09:29 The Met Police announce a major incident in London, but say it is too early to know what has happened. Until now, the official explanation has been power surges on the network.
09:47 Hussain has now found a seat on the upper deck of a number 30 bus, which is crowded and on diversion due to the tube chaos. His bomb explodes in Tavistock Square, killing 13 and injuring 110. It is thought that Hussain was either unable to board at King's Cross, or that his original detonator had failed.
The blast occurred very close to the headquarters of the British Medical Association, and senior doctors attending a conference were rapidly on hand to provide first aid. One of them, Dr Peter Holden, was one of the few people in the country trained as a major incident commander, and his presence undoubtedly saved many lives.
10:21 Scotland Yard confirms that there have been "multiple explosions" in London. Soon after, BTP confirms the bus bombing.
10:55 Home Secretary Charles Clarke says the "dreadful incidents" have caused "terrible injuries". He confirms that London public transport has been suspended. Motorists are advised to steer clear of Zone 1.
11:15 Sir Ian Blair, the head of the Met Police, speaks of a "confusing situation" at a press conference, where he talks of "about six explosions".
11:25 The first reports of deaths emerge, with two confirmed casualties.
12:05 Tony Blair emerges from a G8 summit in Scotland to tell the country that "it is reasonably clear there have been a series of terrorist attacks in London".
12:55 Clarke tells Parliament that there have been four explosions, but that the perpetrators are unknown. Meanwhile, claims that Al Qaeda is behind the attacks emerge on the internet.
15:25 Death toll updated to 33, with reports of many serious injuries and lost limbs.
16:35 The Queen asks for the Union Jack to be flown at half-mast as a mark of respect for the dead.
17:32 Tony Blair, now in London, and fresh from an emergency COBRA meeting, condemns the "slaughter of innocent people" and promises the "most intense police and Security Service action to make sure we bring those responsible to justice".
19:39 Foreign Secretary Jack Straw claims the attacks bear the hallmarks of Al Qaeda.
22:19 Hasib Hussain's family reports their son missing to the emergency casualty bureau.
23:40 Police reveal that they have found identification belonging to Siddique Khan and Tanweer, as well as phones and other personal items.

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