Reflecting on 7/7
At lunchtime on July 6th 2005, I was working in my office with the door open onto the atrium below. Unusually for me, I was working with the radio on, as I wanted to hear the announcement of the Olympic city for 2012. As the news came over the radio, a cheer went up from the small crowd in the atrium below, and I rushed out to smile and wave at them. It was a snapshot moment.
Another came the next day. It was my day off, and I was out shopping early as we had guests arriving later in the day. Turning on the radio in the car, news came through of one ‘electrical problem’ and then another and another on the London Underground network. By the time I had made the short journey home the Number 7 bus in Tavistock Square had blown up, and it was obvious that the Tube problems were not electrical faults but bombs too.
Never before had a story been covered by so much ‘guerilla reporting’ with news services awash with mobile phone images and handheld video footage shot in situ by members of the public. After that, came the wave of comment and analysis from the experts. However, for me the sound of two voices rose above the crowd. The first was that of George Psaradkis, driver of the ill-fated Number 7 bus:
A Week ago I took my No 30 bus out from here on a journey which ended as a nightmare…With quiet dignity and respect we show our deep contempt for those who planted the bombs and those who masterminded them.
The other was that of Marie Fatayi-Williams , a mother who had travelled all the way from Nigeria to find her son, lost in the bombings. With just a scrap of paper in her hand, and tears of impotent rage and sorrow on her cheeks, she addressed the cameras:
I need to know, I want to protect him. I’m his mother, I will fight and die to protect him. To protect his values and to protect his memory. Innocent blood will always cry to God almighty for reparation. How much blood must be spilled. How many tears shall we cry? How many mother’s hearts must be maimed?
It is that last question, surely, which remains unanswered? Alongside this Nigerian mother there are others who have lost sons and daughters in Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere. Others have lost their daughters across the border from Turkey into Syria and are unlikely ever to see them again. How many mothers’ hearts…
I hope the #walktogether campaign got a good response today. The sight of Londoners taking that little extra time to walk the last stop to work together in a kind of shared solidarity may be just the kind of ‘dignity and respect’ for which George Psaradakis was calling 10 years ago.