Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Date to remember

Most people remember where they were on September 11th 2001, how they heard the news, who they were with, etc. For Londoners, yesterday, the 7th July, was another of those dates. Yesterday was the third anniversary of the London Bombings in 2005.

It sounds cliched but I can remember exactly where I was and what I did for the whole day. I was working from home in the morning, waiting for my new laptop and printer to be delivered. To use my work laptop, I had to plug it into the phone socket (it was still on dial-up), so I was tethered to the sofa, with the TV on in the background. BBC1 was showing one of it's house-buying programs.

The first mention of the bombings was from the delivery man who brought the printer (the laptop arrived separately, later). It was about 9.50am. He said there'd been an explosion on the Underground. My first thought: "Oh, God. Don't let it be our fault!". (The engineers I worked for had multiple large contracts with London Underground.)

At 10am, the news came on the TV and I watched as the truth emerged. Four explosions. Three different tube trains and a bus.

The laptop arrived at around 11am. This delivery man was less chatty. Worried. Frightened even.

I packed up and drove to work. Even though I was listening to the car radio, I remember an absence of noise. There was very little traffic and everyone was driving slowly. Nobody was in the fast lane. Everywhere, the matrix signs read:

Avoid Central London
Roads Closed
Turn on Radio

On the opposite side of the M25 a string of Surrey Ambulances headed towards the M4.

At work, the emergency plans had come into action. The IT department where I worked had set up a call centre, helping HR to track down every member of staff who either worked in our London offices or was known to be up in Town for a meeting. By 2pm, all heads were accounted for. Nobody was missing. Or injured. Nobody had immediate family among the victims.

By 3pm, our CEO had emailed every member of staff (all 15,000 of us) informing us that even if he had to walk there, he would be working in our Central London office for the next few days. And so would all the members of the Management Board. He left unspoken that if the board members didn't make it in, they wouldn't have jobs. But we all knew. I've always liked him for that - he wouldn't put the staff through anything he wasn't prepared to face himself.

I drove a colleague home that afternoon. He was quite shaken up, one of the more sensitive types. I think he'd have liked to have had a cry, if he could have got away with it. There were many people who felt like that on 7/7.

- Pam

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