Friday, July 07, 2006

Last train to London

A year ago today - about this time of the morning on 7/7 - I got the last train into London. I knew it was the last train in - they announced it over the creaking loudspeaker. I knew there had been a terrorist attack - even though the BBC was still reporting only "power surges". Call it instinct or intuition - but my Belfast-raised husband on the other end of the mobile phone agreed. This was more than Transport for London's usual inefficiency and poor maintenance of track and rolling stock. It was an attack on London.

I still got on that train.

I and one other guy on the platform in Tooting knew that it was more than a power surge. Normally commuters don't talk to each other, but that day - we talked. He said he had no choice. I didn't have my laptop with me - so couldn't work at home, so I felt I had no choice but to go in. There was something in the air that anyone who trusted their human sense of danger could recognise - we knew it was a bomb. But still, we followed the herd.

As we made our slow progress from Zone 3 and the beginnings of suburbia into what is palpably central London, my fellow passengers clung to their belief that it was some kind of big malfunction. The woman across from me refused to believe. "They said it was a power surge," she said. The official news - which I received in updates from my husband on the phone - still said nothing of bombs (though by that time the rescue operation was underway). "What have they done to my city?" I said. I remember feeling very sad, and brushing away a tear, and seeing that woman shaken by my sadness. I remember hearing a professor loudly admonishing a student over the phone, telling him he had to come to her office for a make-up exam that afternoon or fail - that she didn't care what the current transport problems were. And I remember thinking - he's not going to make that appointment and she's not going to care.

When I arrived at work, my colleagues were convinced that it was a London Underground snafu. The whole network was down, I had arrived on the last overground train to London. "It's a bomb," I said. "You don't know that," they said. "It's a power surge," they said. "C'mon," I said "What's a bomb but a big old power surge?" They thought I was crazy, paranoid. It was a while before official word rolled in and they believed me.

I began to feel angry that the Transport for London had let me get on that train. They had known it was an attack by that point and they let us go into the heart of chaos. I blame myself, too. I had certainly known it was a bomb - but with everyone around me, including officials, doing their best to deny it, I got on that Thameslink commuter train and headed in.

We're standing on that platform now. We're about to get on that last train to London. We have a serious problem in this country and no one wants to believe it. Instead of - "Saudi money is radicalising our British Muslims and turning some of them into human bombs- very few - but enough to kill, maim and disrupt," we are getting "We must counter Islamaphobia, deprivation and ensure a cohesive, multicultural society."

I want a cohesive, multicultural society. I love the vibrancy of London which stems from the diversity of her people. This is a city which will embrace you if you let her, no matter where you come from or what you look like. But let's not kid ourselves.

  • 13% of British Muslims think that the four men who carried out the London Tube and bus bombings of July 7, 2005, should be regarded as “martyrs”
  • 7% agree that suicide attacks on civilians in the UK can be justified in some circumstances, rising to 16 per cent for a military target
  • 16% of British Muslims say that while the attacks may have been wrong, the cause was right
  • 2% would be proud if a family member decided to join al-Qaeda. Sixteen per cent would be “indifferent”
Via The Times

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Syme said...

Hi there

I saw you arrived at our blog -DLM- searching for a list of those who died in the July attacks in London. If you want a full -and more complete- list in English, you can find it here:

Karen Shacham said...

Hey There,

My name is Karen Shacham and I work with CNN Pipeline in Atlanta.

I thought you might be interested to know that the London Bombing Memorial will be on Pipeline, LIVE at 1pm ET!

CNN Pipeline is an online, commercial-free multiple live-news feed. It showcases four simultaneous news feeds from around the world and an on-demand function that allows you to select from a variety of news stories.

Please let your members know that they can go to and click on the Pipeline link to watch it *live* and get a two week free trial.

Thanks and have a great day!

St. Caffeine said...

Another great post Vol. I can't wait till you're an acclaimed freelance writer so I can say, "I knew her when."

By the way, what's the general mood in London today?

Vol Abroad said...

somber- apparently, but I only know from blogs since I'm still off sick.