Was it really four years ago? I have two abiding memories of the day.
The first was my journey into work. I got to Finchley Central only to find the trains weren’t working. Grumbled. Jumped on a bus to Golders Green. Got a bus to Golders Green. Got a number 30 once I reached Baker Street. Throughout my bus journey I was sending snarky text messages about the uselessness of public transport. It was only a little further down the road that I got a panicky phone call from my girlfriend ordering me to get off the bus.
Fortunately it wasn’t that number 30 (indeed I wouldn’t have got the phone call in time if it had been). I carried on my journey to work only to find that the Euston area was completely cordoned off. With no phone reception, I had no idea what was going on at that point. It just seemed surreal.
I do occasionally idly speculate what might have happened if I’d got out of bed half an hour earlier that morning (on a related note, I was meant to be in Manchester city centre performing, um, street theatre, on the morning of 15 June 1996 but decided to have a lie in instead; similarly, I planned to go to the cinema at the Brixton Ritzy on the evening of 15 April 1999 but got sidetracked writing an article – I’ve been a bit of a jammy, if lazy, bugger all told).
Having got to work at last, I monitored the news a bit, spectacularly failed to do anything productive and eventually decided to start the journey home. With the whole tube network out of action, it was no mean feat.
This may not sound like a particularly sensitive thing to say, but my overwhelming sense of the day was quite happy. Seeing the commuting population of a city the size of London walking home, with virtually no traffic, was plain surreal and most of us felt the same way. It was a strangely unifying experience. People were making eye contact and even talking with complete strangers. There was an enormous swell of community spirit.
I’m sure the experience for those more immediately involved in the bombings was nothing like this, but for the rest of us the sense was relief and comaraderie more than panic. It was a unique experience and one I won’t forget.
UPDATE: Hmmm… a little worried this article might make me sound dismissive of all the horror and tragedy of that day. I really don’t mean to sound that way. What I’m trying to get across is that a) I was bloody lucky and b) the bulk of the human race – at least the ones in London – are decent, sensible people who behaved well on that day and gave me a glimmer of hope for humanity more generally.