7 July 2005 is one day when those in London at the time will never forget.
That morning I was still on a high from news the day before that Stratford, East London had won the bid to host the 2012 summer Olympics. Given I lived in nearby Walthamstow such good news sent the area into a frenzy.
So on the morning of 7 July around at 830 I headed to Walthamstow Central tube station. The station entrance was busier more than the usual. Access to the platforms was impossible and no trains or tubes were operating.
Concerns were raised when station staff told us that all London tube lines were down and they didn’t now why. The thing that triggered even more worries was that most of the mobile phone networks were also down.
As I was on leave I headed back home and learnt of the bombings in London via local tv news. I was shocked. I was scared. I cried. I felt empty.
If you lived through IRA bombings then you became accustomed to bomb threats and bombings. But this was different. Suicide bombings on our doorsteps was a new form of terrorism for London.
Our family and friends across the UK and overseas were concerned. I was getting calls on my land line from folks I had not heard from in years. At that moment I was just grateful for life.
I did not know any of the 52 commuters who were killed but some were from Walthamstow or close by. One person I knew was close to one of the victims. She has coped in her own quiet way and has never discussed her friend’s passing at all.
It could have been any of us who travelled via Piccadilly Line, Circle Line or the number 30 bus. Because that’s how most of us get round the capital.
Over the following fortnight parts of London in the evenings turned into ghost towns. Numerous bomb scares meant that we were all on our toes. In the days, weeks that followed some Londoners and visitors refused to travel by tube. One friend has never taken the tube since the bombings.
Socially and culturally July in London is the place to be. But that month many Londoners were in no mood to socialise. West End plays were closed due to low attendances. Popular restaurants had few customers in the evenings. Bags were not allowed in popular tourist venues like museums.
I took the tube the day after the bombings as such idiots and their supporters were not going to prevent me and many others from doing so. Sadly some of those same terrorists supporters lived in Walthamstow and were prominent in their utterances both locally and in the media.
Travelling by tube became uncomfortable for some. If you had a ruck sack (I did) and your skin was a darker shade of pale, some commuters (of all colours) were likely to stay as far as conveniently possible from you.
[One innocent Brazilian young man – Jean Charles de Menezes -was killed by the police on a tube because he looked “dark” and “Arab looking”. The sense of fear and distrust crept across the capital.]
Train stations and shops were regularly evacuated due to bomb scares. Armed police were patrolling the streets, shopping centres and train stations. The subsequent bomb attacks weeks later on 21 July just added more chaos, drama and apprehension to the streets of London.
I can never forget the awful events in London on 7 July 2005. It was my 38th birthday.