Thursday, July 06, 2006

London - one year on

Last year on the 6th July, I was sitting in a supplier’s offices on Farrington Road in London when there was a sudden loud roaring sound. Hearts in mouths, the twenty or so people in the meeting looked panicky, wondering if it was a terrorist attack.

A few minutes later, we broke for lunch and someone checking their Blackberry looked up and announced that UK had won the 2012 Olympic Bid. Turned out that the noise was a very low fly past over the centre of London were crowds had gathered to hear the news. There was universal joy at the news.

I flew home that night, and was in the office the next morning on the 7th when news broke about the problems on the London Underground. First it was talk of a power cut affecting trains; then slowly the news changed to a story of bombs on tube trains and buses.

Colleagues from Belfast were still in London, many of them not knowing what was going on around them. As the day went on, we texted them news about which buses and trains were running. Some ignored the police instructions to remain where they were and walked north west to Paddington where they were able to get the Heathrow Express to the airport and make their way home. Others managed to check back into hotels and stay an extra night before returning home on Saturday.

Despite the tendency for so many of us to book into the Holiday Inn Hotel beside Russell Square tube station, none of my local colleagues were caught in the attacks. Tragically though, a London-based employee was killed on the Tavistock Square bus.

On the first day back across in London, the tubes seemed quieter, people were agitated and constantly looking around them. While the nervousness about using public transport in London has largely subsided, a lot more colleagues know the bus routes from stations to the buildings we meet in.

One year on, and I’m back in London tomorrow on the 7th July, in a meeting not far away from the events of last year. The day already feels tinged with sadness at the loss of life this time last year, and I’m sure the two-minute silence will feel loudest in Central London tomorrow at noon.

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