i didn’t learn until a few days later that i avoided being blown up on the circle or metropolitan line between liverpool street and aldgate stations by only twenty minutes. i passed though the tunnel on my way to work about half past eight. the explosions came at 8.50. when i left the tube at aldgate there was no indication of what was about to happen behind me a few minutes later. now when i use the same station i always glance at the little plaque with the names of those killed. there are always fresh flowers, and i always remember that day.
i remember the confusion at work, the jammed mobile networks, and the conflicting official accounts which we watched on the school’s tiny tv set, which started as ‘isolated incidents’, then ‘fires’. some of the students were terrified. on the point of panic. desperate to leave although the announcements kept coming; ‘stay where you are’. there were sirens wailing as fire vehicles, and police cars roared up commercial road just around the corner. helicopters whirred and growled overhead. it was only much later that what was obvious to everyone — that it was an organised terrorist attack — was openly acknowledged.
i remember having to walk home from whitechapel, the tubes had stopped and the few buses were quickly packed. crowds marching, through the city and on to the west end, to holland park where i lived then. i stopped off at a pub on the way, in holborn. unusually for london people were talking together, even joking and laughing. it was reminiscent of what we were told by our parents and grandparents about life in WWII; people were closer, more co-operative, a community of shared experience. it felt a bit like that, openly talking to strangers. despite the laughing and joking there was no denying the underlying sombre mood.
i remember it was a beautiful july day, brilliant blue sky and golden warm sunshine.