Friday, July 08, 2005

I'm OK. I was at home all morning and much of the afternoon yesterday, so missed any of the events which happened in Liverpool Street and central London. It didn't seem real to me until I started to see on the news that Russell Square tube station had been closed and that a bus had been blown up in Tavistock Square - on the opposite side of the Institute.

I tried to call people but found it almost impossible - the lines were down and when they weren't I could get through. Even then, it still seemed all rather distant from me.

After I had to to drive down to Wimbledon because the tube system (and most of the buses into central London) had been knocked out, it still seemed incredibly far away - aside from the horrendous traffic jams and the constant wailing sirens as ambulances and police (many in unmarked cars) sped past.

Only today did I start to sense the full gravity of the situation. The tube was more than half empty at 9 this morning and there was an uneasy quiet. Virtually everyone had a newspaper which was carrying details of the events of yesterday which can't have been good for confidence: photos full of carnage, injured people, bucked carriages and seats.

Having done some reading at the LSE I walked up towards Russell Square - for some strange reason I assumed only the immediate vicinity of the bomb site would be cordoned off. Maybe it was because much of the tube service had returned with some few exceptions.

But Southampton Row was almost empty of cars while the whole of Russell Square itself was cordoned off, forcing the public to walk around the pavements. As for Tavistock Square, it was completely closed off, with a vast tarpaulin sheet blocking the view of the BMA building in front of which the bus had been destroyed. The entire area was a crime scene and presumably will remain so until Monday. Constantly I came back home to type this up - and get on with the other work which I need to make a start on.

Just as yesterday when the transport system was at a standstill and there were thousands of people walking the streets home, there doesn't seem to be a sense of urgency or panic. Instead there just seems to be steely resolve that life goes on. But there are signs which show that things aren't the same. Along Southampton Road afixed to the side of phone boxes was a poster carrying a photocopied picture of a man and a request from his friends for information about his whereabouts.

It was then, after I saw this, that I realised there must be many more such cases around the city. And that just like New York, Madrid, Iraq and Bali, London has now played host to the same awful experience of terrorism without warning.

We've been hearing for years that this was going to one day happen here. But acceptance still doesn't prepare you when it does finally occur.

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