London bombs – a commuter’s day

You may have gathered from other posts that I am a Londoner. You will probably also be aware of the bombings in London on 7 July 2005. Although, fortunately, not in any of the trains or the bus that exploded I was affected and this is my account – for what it is worth.

The empty indicator board at Liverpool Street Station on that day
Liverpool Street Statin – 7 July 2005
by Paul Robinson CC:By

On that day, I was travelling to work on the Central Line, scheduled to arrive at my destination Liverpool Street Station around 9:00 am (running a little late). At 8:50(ish) my tube driver anounced that Liverpool Street was closed because of a “security alert” and Bank was closed due to a “localised power failure”.

Nobody panicked on my carriage, instead there was a general raising of the eyebrows and shaking of the head at yet another delay to our journey. For over thirty years Tube users have become accostmed to stations closing because of security alerts, only to then re-open thirty minutes later when the security alert was discovered to be a touristwho had left their suitcase unattended. Like many others, when I heard this anouncement I simply did a mental calculation of my revised journey into work. Get off at Stratford anf catch a Mainline train into Liverpool Street.
We arrived at Stratford with no further information – the driver made the same announcements at each intermediate stop. There was some stopping in the tunnel which which is normal for security alerts. I got off just as a mainline (ONE) train pulled into the adjoining platform. I got on that and the train pulled off. Ten minutes later we pulled into Liverpool Street Station. It was now around 9:20am – half an hour after the Liverpool Street Bomb, after both the other Tube bombs but before the bus.

At the same time several other trains pulled in. Thousands of passengers were greeted by a small but calm group of British transport Police officers who waved us toward the exits with the words “Could you please exit the station this way – thank you”. The underground was closed (confirming what my Tube driver had said) so I left the station along my usual route and walked to work. The only people I saw in any kind of quandry were three people who had just got off the Stansted Express – direct from Stansted Airport – and who were unsure where the bus terminus was. Everybody else seemed calm – if not a little peeved at the delay.

I arrived at work around 9:40 – there were crowds on the street but again this is normal if a tube station or two in closed. Passing through Old Street Subway (in which is housed the Tube station) I saw the Northern line was closed because of “power failures”. Again my driver was confirmed. Upon arriving at work I got my first real inkling of what had happened. A small band of my colleagues stood in reception and said things like “Thank God” and “Did you see anything?”
Things had been so calmy and matter of factly dealt with on my journey that at first I refuted claims of bombs as being media hysterics. Surely I would have heard something of it during my journey? But no I hadn’t and for that reason I was able to keep calm on my journey. Liverpool Street is a large area. The bomb exploded in a tunnel halfway to the next station. There was consequently no indication of the atrocity that had happened was given.

In the aftermath and flurry of news reports the London travelling public were praised for the calm way they had handled the situation. I would cetainly say that evryone I saw as calm. Personally I think this is down to two things. 1. We have dealt with so many security alerts and station closures that finding alternative routes to work becomes almost second nature. 2. The calmness of Tube and Rail staff and of the Police gave none of us any reason to think it was anything else. I’ve seen a lot of praise for them for their bravery and hard work. I would like to add to that a commendation for the calm they brought to the situation. Both those on the ground and those in command of the services managed themselves in a way which did more than anything else to bring a sense of calm to what could have been a much bigger tragedy.

I decide to sit it out at work rather than try to get home immediately. I was offered a sofa for the night if required by a colleague who lives near work. I rang my wife and my parents to reassure them and sat it out. Eventually I heard that Liverpool Street mainline trains were running again and got home around 5:30pm. Actually my journey home was quicker and easier than my usual one – mostly because I got to the station just as the first trains were running and hardly anyone had heard about it.

So to be honest I had a fairly uneventful day but it is still one I wil never forget. As an example, I have been on leave until today and travelling in this morning my tube driver announced – at the same spot as last time – that Bank station was closed due to a security alert. This time I shuddered momentarily – concerned that more people would lose their lives. I glanced around and saw a similar concerned look on other faces. The bombs affected everyone who travels on the Tube. In reality only a small percentage were directly affected by the attacks but their effect is clear on all of us now.

London is and will continue to survive this attack. The actions of the Police and transport staff will continue to bring calm to travellers in moments like these and London commuters will continue to raise their eyebrows at security alerts and find alternative routes. We’re not especially brave (except those who were directly involved and now still have to get back on tubes and buses), it’s not a conscious “blitz spirit” that keeps us going, it’s just that’s what we’re good at – we keep going. In the absence of definite information the Spirit of London is to just get on with what we were doing anyway. We’ll complain to high heaven about rip-off prices and the poor services and yet still use them. We’ll moan about the grime but still drop litter. We’ll watch out for suspect parcels or people but need to be really sure before we pull an emergency cord. If London needs a motto – I suggest “Getting on with it”.

I am immensley proud to be a Londoner – more so after the bombings. My heart and prayers go out to those who lost loved ones or who were injured. My thoughts are with the security services as they go through the terribly difficult task of sifting through the evidence at the scenes and as they try to track down those responsible. But my heart is with London. I know of no other place that would have dealt with this in this way, not with public outrage or grief – not our style, but with quiet dignity and reverence to those gone.

London – Getting on with it.