I remember it more than any other day. A hot summer Thursday morning, I was having a slow start and missed my normal train. I reached Tower Hill just as the station was closing. “Power cut, no we don’t know when we’ll be able to open. Give it 10 minutes.” A crowd was starting to form around the entrance, but no one was stressed or bothered. “Do I wait or try a bus?” we were all thinking the same thing.
Impatient to get going, I decided to try the bus. By now, there were a lot of people keen to get to work, and there was such a swarm attempting to board the first bus that I decided to walk. A pleasant hour along South Bank to Waterloo Bridge. I did wonder at all the sirens, but having never walked to work before I had no idea what was normal, and no one around me seemed bothered.
I reached the office. “Your safe! Didn’t you know… there’s been a bomb.” Oh God, that’s what the sirens were for. The rest of the day was spent listlessly attempting to work, while keeping half an eye on the only PC in the office that had an internet connection. Rumours and counter rumours abounded. No one really knew what was going on, or if it was safe to leave the building.
An eerie silence descended over London, no panic, just a sense of quiet shock “keep calm and carry on”. Only last week half of us had been standing in Trafalgar Square waiting for the verdict on who would host the Olympics (I didn’t bother, I was sure France would win), and the week before that I was in Hyde Park for Live 8. London was absolutely buzzing – the best place to be in the world.
We waited for the all clear, and that evening I walked back along the Thames with a tide of fellow commuters. It felt strangely like the aftermath of a festival; we’d all shared the same experience and were on the Come Down together. Fenchurch Street was still closed, and there was quite a crowd around the front entrance. The bars were busy, and in some ways it just felt like a Friday night, with commuters dallying before getting their train home.
I remember being annoyed that the train barriers were not lifted – surely just this once they could not worry about tickets – but other than that it was a strangely normal journey home. The day’s events were only just starting to sink in.
I took the next day off, partly to appease My Taller Half, who was a lot more bothered about me travelling than I was, and partly to ‘let things settle down’. Maybe also a little bit because I was worried, but You Must Get Back On The Horse. The tube journey on Monday was surreal. Everyone made a point of clutching their bags and rucksacks “No bomb in my bag” and there was a dual feeling of “We are not afraid, we’re in this together” alongside “Are there any terrorists in my carriage?”. Nobody spoke, but it was obvious that everyone felt the same thing.
Gradually normality resumed. We got used to the armed police and constant tannoy reminders to Keep Our Belongings With Us At All Times. And now it was ten years ago. I’ve moved out of the South East, out of the suburbs, and swapped commuting for home working, but that day ten years ago is etched forever on my mind.