One day in July: 7/7 5th anniversary

The Hyde Park memorial. Peter Cheney, who was in London on 7 July this year, looks back at the 2005 attacks.

If 6 July 2005 was the best of times for London, then the following day briefly proved to be one of its worst. The citizens of the prospective Olympic city looked on as its emergency services rushed to four scenes of chaos that Tuesday morning.

Fifty-two innocent lives were claimed. The three underground attacks, at 8.50am, killed thirty-eight. Another thirteen deaths followed the explosion on a bus at Tavistock Square at 9.47am.

The shock of that day was compounded by the Olympic celebrations less than 24 hours beforehand, although few observers were surprised. London has long been a target.

Four further attempted attacks, on 21 July, were thankfully unsuccessful with the culprits soon caught. In the midst of that search, Jean Charles de Menezes became another casualty of the crisis.

A memorial, one steel pillar standing for each victim, was unveiled on the fourth anniversary near Hyde Park Corner. Each is marked with the date, time and location of an attack.

London likes speed and a certain sense of order too. Slowing down is acceptable as long as the crowd is slightly moving. Stopping is not. Its traditional attitude, termed the Blitz spirit in emergencies, is business as usual.

Life, of course, is not normal for the families and friends of the dead, and seriously injured. Some of them would have preferred an official ceremony to mark this milestone but this was declined as other relatives wanted to remember that day quietly instead.

Commuters talked to each other in the Tube the day after the bombings, an uncommon event in itself but a simple reaction for people seeking some reassurance or an answer.

The attacks were ultimately the responsibility of the perpetrators. There is a futility in the fact that they took their lives and many others in a society that offered them every chance to succeed in life.

Already high before 9/11, the international terrorist threat to the UK increased after its participation in the Iraq war. Five years on, that threat remains severe. Just as certain is London’s resilience, best seen in its normal day-to-day routine. For the stream of travellers weaving through ticket readers, down escalators, on and off trains and out into its streets, 7 July 2010 started as just another morning in a city that won’t stop or be stopped.

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