Tuesday, July 7, 2015

7/7/2005

The 7th July 2005 was just another normal day in the office for me. Working for Fedex on Nine Elms Lane in SW8, in the dispatch office.
Nothing special about the day, other than I was having a new windscreen fitted to my Mk IV Golf.

Starting work that day was straight forward, with the AutoGlass guy showing up, and me going downstairs to get him started on the car. Returning to my office, and getting back to work.
Suddenly one of the other guys in the office takes a disturbing phone call, a hysterical courier on the phone, rambling, confused, "its just blown up, in front of me, its just gone!" The line goes dead.

Up until this point, we had no real idea what was going on. A few vague reports on the radio about an explosion somewhere in London, but no firm details. Remembering, its 2005, and while the internet exists, and is becoming popular, things like Twitter and Facebook are in their infancy, and social media is yet to blossom. So except for the radio, there is no real news.

With the earlier explosions having been on tube trains, underground, away from the sight of the masses, news is slow to emerge. But thats about to change, in fact it just has. With the phonecall from Daniel being the first clue to what has just happened, minutes later our worst fears are confirmed, and the radio reports a scene of devastation on Tavistock Square where eye witnesses report a bus has been almost vaporised by an explosion.

The pieces are falling into place fast now, and it is clear that something truly horrific is unfolding in London right before our very eyes. Phones in the office burst into life, both personal mobiles, as well as business lines. Couriers trying to find out what's happening, friends and family checking in with one another.... Then silence. The mobile networks, overloaded by calls have ground to a halt, and will eventually be blocked for all but essential calls for the emergency services.

The radio with LBC on, playing in the background almost pauses for a moment, as the presenter composes themselves to deliver the news to its listeners in London. Announcing that a series of bombs have exploded on trains and at least one bus. With new still shaky about exactly where and how many bombs there have been, everyone prepares for the worst news, and maybe a second wave of attacks.

With our office less than a mile from the Mi6 building in Vauxhall Cross, and remembering back to 9/11, how planes were used to attack high profile targets. And also sitting on one of the main flight paths to Heathrow, it would be a lie to say the thought of a plane being used in a second attack didn't cross anyones mind. But for now there are more important things to deal with.

Let friends and loved ones know you are ok, emails flying, forum posts being made, and making contact with anyone you know who could be within a few miles of the situation. Work colleagues, contacting everyone on road to make sure no one else has been affected by the events. Communication is slow, painfully slow, and it takes what feels like an eternity to do a full role call of everyone. Eventually however it is done, and without much consideration to official instructions, workers are told just get out of central London and into safety, or back to base.

Calls are coming in from customers, relatives of workers, and anyone with any invested interest in the people within the company. Customers saying stay safe, don't come, and that they are going home. Concerned family members, unaware the phone networks are down, and fearing the worst as they cannot contact their relative. Calming each caller, confirming we have made contact and that they are alive and well and heading for safety.

The timeline at this point seems stretched and distorted. Memories and recollections of how things happened make no sense. How could so much have happened in such a short time.
Walking downstairs to take a quick breather, I go to see how the AutoGlass guy is getting on, asking if he has heard the news. He looks blankly at me, listening instead to a music radio station which is yet to have a news bulletin. Staring at me he switches stations and looks shocked as he starts to hear the reports.

Looking across the way into another unit on the estate we are on. The London Underground response officers are gearing up. For years now we have looked over as they calmly load up to go out to a job, maybe a minor accident etc. But today is different. Speed is of the essence, everything they have trained for has just happened, all at once, and then some.  Seeing the last of the equipment going onto the many vehicles, and seeing them pull out, reality dawns on you. They are about to enter a scene of uncertainty and without doubt, complete devastation. Bodies, wreckage, hysteria, just some of the things that await these poor guys. Your thoughts go with them as they turn onto the main road and head into town.

As the radio starts to report in detail the sheer enormity of the situation, a chilling sound fills the air. I have gone cold sitting here typing this, just recalling the sight and sound which followed. The air, filled with sirens clearly travelling at speed. We all look out of the windows out on to Nine Elms Lane, and see a huge string of ambulances, some London, but mainly Surrey, pouring down the road, rushing to the scenes of the explosions. To see such a mass of home counties emergency services flooding into London, the penny drops... This is HUGE !

For the next few hours we listen intently to the radio, as the details become clearer, how many bombs, how many missing, helplines launched, appeals for all kinds of help.

Amazingly London has responded on two levels. The first being the petrified and helpless, getting away is the main thing, and every effort is made to help one another get to safety and comfort. And then the second level, unity. An amazing sight as people just forget who they are for a moment and become one amazing unit. Helping, carrying, guiding, volunteering. London has done something amazing, and probably partially driven by the history of terrorism in the capital. Refusing to be scared away, refusing to cower, people stand tall. TV cameras capture scenes as people flood into the streets, companies closing with immediate effect and sending everyone home. The transport network crippled, there is no choice but to walk. But not the usual blinkered London streets walk. But a slow paced, friendly, comforting and engaging way.

Drivers offer lifts to those who clearly will struggle to walk long distance, in the face of horror and adversity, the days events have driven people closer together and out into the streets. Not hiding behind closed doors in fear.

As the day for many draws to an end, for a very special group of people, a long day continues. Police, fire fighters, rescue crews, ambulance crews, and all sorts of other public service employees continue their tireless effort to get to the remaining victims. To sweep every carriage to ensure everyone possible is accounted for.

In the years since these events, London has returned to its usual self, and people have put events to the backs of their minds. Much more has happened since that day.

But today marks ten years since it all happened.

So today, whatever your experiences were of the day, however it affected you, let us once again unite, be as one together, and stand strong. Let us remember to those innocent people who lost their lives in such a hateful and tragic event. Lets pay tribute to the amazing efforts of all the emergency, and other services who took control that day, seamlessly springing into action and taking care of everything so well. Selfless, dedicated and committed to the job they signed up to do.

But please, let us not use this day to raise the ugly head of racism, anti religious feelings, or to play the blame game. After all, it is the infighting that the evil minded people who carry out these attacks prey on. So lets not give in. While I appreciate the media feel the need to mark the date, as do we. Reshowing the devastation, the panic and upset it caused on that day is in no way a tribute to anyone. Its cheap television, and something I don't take kindly too. I would much rather the day be filled with stories of how new bonds were made, stories of survival and defiance.

So, remember the victims, think of their families. Take a moment to reflect how the day changed your life, and pay thanks to the brave people who guided so many through the day. But please please please, don't give any negativity or hatred the time of day.

R.I.P to all those who lost their lives in the events of 7/7. Condolences to the friends and families of all those who lost a loved one on this day. My thoughts are with you today.

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