And now we are in the aftermath, the boxes are all being ticked. The past 24 hours have seen a move from normality, to “Is this it? Maybe.” to “What the hell is happening and what do I need to do about it?” and slowly we're emerging, blinking, into the daylight. But when you have daylight, its easy to lose perspective of that chaotic moment, when you know your worldview has to change, and you don't yet know by how much.
Everyone in London played the same game yesterday afternoon “How are my friends? Who do I know that might be dead?” and somehow one even feels shame for the order in which one contacted them: isn't a sister more important than an ex?
Yesterday I was within rock throwing distance of three of the bombs, and I wrote an email to an American friend of mine. I was telling her how I felt just as the shit was hitting the fan. As yesterday evening progressed it became pretty clear that everyone I care about is ok, but the text contains an immediacy that should be preserved. The below writeup is far from my best, and I have intentionally not corrected any errors.
Worth being concerned to be honest mate.. And here’s why:
I got to work early this morning.. I was stupid enough to have forgot to leave the liquid nitrogen out for restocking so I had to get in before the delivery guy. Thus I was at work 1 hour before everything kicked off.
However, I’m a news nerd, and the first thing I do every day is pull up
BBC news online, so when the first explosion occurred at Aldgate, I knew about it. Well 1 hour later of hurried internet surfing and there is a huge great bang outside my work (at 9:46 to be exact), which I first assume is just construction works, they’ve been putting up a building next to me for a year.
Then one of my students hurries down and knocks on my door:
“Have you heard”
“What about the transport explosions? They say it was electrical relays”
“No, about the bus that has just exploded outside”
“What? A bus?”
“Yeah, the roof has come off…”
“So is it terrorists?”
So I head upstairs to our coffee room, where there’s a balcony you can see the street from.. And from there I can just see the bus: It’s a shell, and the top half is missing.. Its about 50 metres from where I’m standing. There is a mess around it as the surrounding cars have clearly been blown astray and splatter on the walls.
Holy Fuck…. You could smell something, you really didn’t want to know
What it was, and students were just up there staring… So yeah, I was close to the thick of things.. In fact later, I found out that one of my students had been ON the bus, but had got a phone call telling him about the trouble at Liverpool St, and since the bus went TO Liverpool St he decided not to risk it and got off. That phone call saved his life. The Bus exploded 30 seconds later…
We had injured people wandering into our building, I’ve heard horrific
stories about halves of people from my colleagues who were passing.. This is the worst thing I’ve ever encountered… Then there was nothing we could do.. Everyone in the building was milling around, desperately trying to work out how to help.. But how do you help here? At least it was in spitting distance of two hospitals and the British Medical Association, so there was no need for us to do First Aid.. But we still feel horrifically guilty… And it was raining, its strange how this changes everything but everyone was standing in the shelter, talking away from the rain, because even then, the rain always brings some sort of peace.
I still don’t know if everyone I care about is ok.. That bus route is a major way people get to my work, so is Kings Cross Station (21 confirmed dead).
This is not a good day for London..
If those bastards make this death a political football, I will burn them to the ground…
I am a Londoner. To me, this word has a depth that "English" and "British" lack. I was born here, the East End has been the home of the Grooms for over a hundred years, and now London is home for my uncle, my sister (both of whom were, by a mixture of circumstances, away from Aldgate station, which they usually pass through at 8:48am), and I.
To a Londoner, there can be no question that she’s the greatest city on the planet. What can possibly compare to this place for sheer history? Every district, every street has its own myths. From Jack the Ripper, to the birth place of communism, to the most famous public crossing in the world. The only times I've felt close to tears are when I think of my city, my home, torn up by bomb damage. I work in Bloomsbury, a place with its own unique past.
Bloomsbury is a pivot in the history of The Enlightenment and Liberalism. Lets have a quick list of it's major points of note: University College London- the first non-clerical college in the UK, accepting anyone, notably including women. Jeremy Bentham's stuffed corpse - the father of Utilitarianism and UCL, who also founded Birkbeck College, the world's first university for part time students. Virginia Woolf helped found modernism here, John Maynard Keynes was father to much of modern left wing economic theory here. The Schools of Oriental and African Studies and Eastern European Studies, two of the worlds leading internationalist institutions. And this is without mentioning the British Museum and the British Library.
Tavistock Square is a quiet place near to the centre of Bloomsbury, and is one of Britain’s most important shrines to tolerance and pacifism. It’s an idyllic, leafy, garden; with park benches dedicated to victims of conflicts. There is a memorial to conscientious objectors here and a cherry tree planted in the name of the victims of Hiroshima. Most importantly, there is London’s only statue of Mahatma Gandhi, who was educated at University College, beside which there are always fresh flowers. Often I take my lunch here, and sit beside the Mahatma, under the shade of the trees. Today I cannot do this.
Today, Tavistock Square is surrounded on all sides by 5-meter high plastic screens and police cordons. From my balcony I can see four people in Tavistock Square wearing the white body suits of forensics experts, and that in the centre of this designated crime scene
is sitting the skeleton of the No. 30 Bus from Islington
. Splayed around this bus still sit cars in disarray, and a litter of shards of metal and plastic. I can't see the statue of the Mahatma or the cherry trees from here, but I know they are close to the damage.
Gandhi has left the building.
This city is big, she's got seven million people swarming around inside her and whatever you've got, she can take it. But the provinces scare me, where people expect security this tragedy may cause them to demand it, and governments feel the pressure to act, even when there is no one to act against. Our current administration has an instinctive authoritarianism we've all seen. I do not see how we can need more measures now than we needed for the IRA. To you, George, whose response to our terrorist attack was to say "The war on terror goes on" I say "this is my truck now, get off my fucking steering wheel". I see a damaged and hemmed in British Prime Minister, driven by his own momentum to follow a flawed plan deeper into a war on terror that has no obvious end. So I'm standing up and saying it to you, Tony, get the hell out of my house, we're coming for our rent!... If we keep following your plan, London will see this day again.