Extract from ‘More by Luck than Judgement, Here Am I’

7th July 2005, “7/7”, Britain’s 9/11…

Already, on the 8th July, The Sun had begun using that phrase.  7/7, the day on which home-grown suicide bombers first struck Britain.  Four bombers, four devices – three detonated on the underground, one on a bus – killing fifty-five, maiming scores more.  Cell leader and teaching assistant, Mohammad Sidique Khan and his three accomplices, Hassib Hussain, Shehzad Tanweer and Muslim convert, Germaine Lindsay.  The CCTV footage of those four outwardly normal young men has become a commonplace, as they set off for their day out in the capital like a jolly band of hikers, carrying rucksacks on their backs and hatred in their souls.  Neither I nor anyone else knew anything of all this…

For two hours I found myself wandering on the edge of that extraordinary day, like a latter day Pepys observing the Great Fire.  I arrived above ground, twenty minutes after the carnage had begun below, wholly unaware of the strange world into which I had stumbled.  I was to have taken the Circle Line from Liverpool Street to High Street Kensington.  Needless to say, I never got there.  If the course that I was scheduled to attend had begun at nine thirty instead of ten o’clock, I would, in all probability, have been on board that mangled tube train amid the shattered glass and soot and severed body parts.  For hundreds of others, the mathematics worked out wrongly.

Just as anyone who was around at the time is supposed to recall where they were when they heard that John F Kennedy had been shot dead, so it is with the attack on the Twin Towers in New York on 11th September 2001.  I was in a computer room with a group of students working on some mundane project or other.  It was the end of a long day, late in the academic year.  A lab technician came into the room and said that she’d just received a text message from a friend about an attack on New York.  There was a TV in the room and she wondered if we might put it on to find out what was going on.  We watched in disbelief as those scenes from a Hollywood disaster movie were played out for real.  I drove home in a daze.  Later, I wandered the streets of Lincoln (where I lived at that time), pondering the enormity of the day’s events.  The story unfolded slowly, just as the events of 7th July in London would – one ‘plane striking the Twin Towers and then another, the desperate leaps through the air into the street hundreds of feet below to avoid the approaching flames, the collapse of the first tower and then the second, the mobile phone messages to loved ones from those who knew that they were about to die, the ‘plane that crashed in the desert due to the heroic resistance of its passengers, the terrorists learning how to fly in order to turn passenger jets into missiles…  I remember where I was at the time of the bomb attacks on the London transport network on 7th July 2005.  I was there.

* * *

Text and image © PSR

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