In Memoriam

(Post written on 07 July 2015, published after much dithering on 08 July 2015)

Just when I think I’ve got a grip (finally!) on my anxiety, and I’m around nice, normal-ish people who talk about nice, normal-ish things, and the most stressful part of my day is logging onto our temperamental server, reality smacks me upside the head like a wet fish.

Today was the tenth anniversary of the London bombings. Ten years to the day danger and terror irrevocably brushed my life. It was a very surreal and anxiety-ratcheting experience passing two of the bombed stations on my commute this morning. There was a minute of silence at 08:50, and there were an equal number of people observing the silence as not. London’s population is constantly in flux, and there are people living here today who weren’t here ten years ago, who have no memories of how the streets of the capital fell silent, who have no memory of calling friends and family in a blind panic, trying to make sure loved ones were OK.

My first memory of the day was a ‘power surge’ in the tunnel, being stuck in the dark for ages, and then being evacuated off the train at the next station with no information forthcoming. It was hot and sticky and I had to schlep myself to work along with hundreds of other commuters, shoving on the pavement for some space. I remember walking into the office and a colleague asking me where my fiancé was. Schvitzing and grumpy, I didn’t know why she was so persistent, until she pointed me to the BBC news, and I realised his station was bombed. I couldn’t reach him, and called every other number in his office till I found someone who was fairly confident they had seen him that morning. We were four weeks off our wedding, and in a vanity dash, instead of taking the Tube, he walked to work that morning to shift some weight, and was thus safe. What are the odds?

I remember walking two hours to get home that afternoon, surrounded by thousands of other people doing the same. No one was talking. We had no mobile service, so no one touched their phones. There was an unreality about the whole day, almost as though we would wake up the next day and realise we had all shared a dystopian experience of epic proportions. That the pictures we had seen were just a drill. A Met Police exercise. Anything BUT what it was.

But the nightmare stretched into days and weeks for a few of us trying to track down loved ones and friends. I lost a friend & colleague that day, but we didn’t have it confirmed until days and a DNA test later. 

I didn’t want to get back on the Tube the next day, but I did. In the aftermath, I toyed around with postponing the wedding, but we didn’t. We told our friends there would be no hard feelings if they re-thought travel plans. They didn’t; everyone invited showed up four weeks later, to celebrate with us. Every little bit of normality felt like an act of defiance, a spitting in the eye of the four madmen and their groomers.

Ten years later, I’m still uncomfortable taking public transport. My natural anxious state means I am always hyper-vigilant and hyper-aware every time I board a train, especially if I have my daughter with me. I text my husband and the babysitter every time I leave work, so someone knows where I am and which route I’m taking. As one person said at the memorial service today, we’re not wondering if another attack will happen, but when, because that’s the world we live in. The autopsies of the Sousse slain are still being conducted two roads down from my house, the wreaths from their caskets on the pavement. That’s our reality.

However, none of this tarnishes my love for my adopted hometown. London has a gritty survival instinct under its polished veneer, and I am madly proud to be a Londoner again. London survived the Blitz, the IRA bombs, 7/7 and probably anything else most fanatic lunatics would throw at it. The words of William Ernest Henley capture this spirit best:

In the fell clutch of circumstance, I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance, My head is bloody, but unbowed. Beyond this place of wrath and tears, Looms but the Horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

18 thoughts on “In Memoriam

  1. suzie81speaks says:

    Oh my gosh. I’m so sorry you experienced this – my sis was near Kings Cross at the time and it was terrifying when I couldn’t initially get in contact with her.

    I taught one of the people that was murdered in Sousse – I left the school when he was in his early teens but I remember a smiling and friendly boy. He lost his uncle and grandfather too…

    I can’t possibly imagine what you and so many others went through… I was thinking of you all yesterday and will continue to do so. The world is going mad.

    Like

    • Petal and Mortar says:

      It is. But we can’t bend, break or Change how we live our lives. I have no doubt we’ll live through more madness. I am so sorry about your student. Three generations in the blink of an eye!

      Like

  2. joey says:

    Terrible turn of events. I feel bad for everyone affected. I think it’s wise to let people know your daily travel plans, regardless.

    Like

  3. Amy says:

    How horrifying that must have been for you. I am so impressed at the way you were able to go on after that. You are an inspiration!

    Like

  4. blondieaka says:

    I am glad you did write and post this beacuse we all need reminders on the frailty of life and circumstances out of our control but also to remind us that we Londoners remain unbowed.:)

    Liked by 2 people

  5. kritsayvonne says:

    I can see why, in your words, you dithered. This must have been a very difficult piece to write and so personal. You were right to share it! It brings home the affect for you and I feel privileged to have read it. Thank you. X

    Liked by 1 person

    • Petal and Mortar says:

      Thanks, Yvonne. So many of us have similar stories from that day. The one thing I remember is everyone pulling together, helping each other out, reassuring each other…those memories are what I choose to venerate.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Habiba says:

    What a moving post… I can vividly remember where I was when I heard about 7/7… Even 9/11. I often get overwhelmed with worry when I think about the world my daughter will be brought up in. Especially as she belongs to a Muslim family. Will she have to explain herself and her faith every step of the way, to make sure noone confuses her with the disgusting fanatics that carry out these attacks? Its a sad state of affairs and I’m so very glad that you and your husband got home safe that day 10 years ago xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Julie M says:

    Beautifully written! Our world has become a scary place – you are right when you say, it’s not a matter of if but when. All we can do is live our lives to the fullest and hope that this next generation makes things better!

    Liked by 1 person

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