Ten years ago, I was sitting on a plane, on the runway at Gatwick airport, just back from a holiday with my friends. We were told over the tannoy that “something” had just happened in London, and that the plane wasn’t allowed to open its doors to let us off, and that as soon as they knew anything, they’d let us know. We sat for almost an hour, with people trying to make phonecalls and having their networks not working, and with the cabin crew trying to find out what was going on. As phonecalls started to go through, and the cabin crew started to be able to update us with what had happened, we had no idea of how bad the terrorist attacks had been. As we shuffled off of the plane, everyone was quiet.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the 7/7 bombings, when four suicide bombers targeted the London morning commute – three within a minute of each other on the tube at Aldgate, Edgware Road, and Russell Square, and one an hour later, on a bus at Tavistock Square. Almost 800 people were injured, and 52 people were killed. There’s a memorial in Hyde Park, made of 52 steel columns, 11 feet tall.
Ten years later, there are plans for another memorial, for those killed in Tunisia a fortnight ago.
I read in the paper last week that in London, people are going to walk between train stations today, as they did on 7/7, when no Zone 1 tubes were open and thousands of people had to walk home. I think that’s a beautiful gesture. The Trust for London website says “To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the 7th July bombings, a broad coalition of people, from all faiths and backgrounds, are calling on the public to come together and show that they have not succeeded in dividing us. The victims were all of us: young and old, black and white, different faiths and none. On that terrible day 10 years ago, London was shocked but it didn’t grind to a halt. That evening, with public transport shut down, thousands of people walked home. But we were not divided – we walked together.” There’s more information on that site, or on twitter, at #WalkTogether.
It’s incredible that 7/7 is ten years ago already. It’s incredibly sad that less than a fortnight ago, more than 300 people were killed in terrorist attacks, and awful that IS have apparently appropriated the month of Ramadan – which – as an opportunity to create a “month of terror”. It’s utterly true that the aim of terrorism is as much to sow division as it is to create destruction. Having a day to mark at all today is horribly sad, and shouldn’t have to happen, as much as there shouldn’t have been a 9/11 to have a ten-year anniversary for, or in ten years time, there shouldn’t have to be a ten-year anniversary for those who were killed in Tunisia, France, Kuwait, Kobane, or Somalia last week, but I think that the walk together campaign is a beautiful demonstration of people’s refusal to be intimidated. I hope that somehow the families and friends of those killed or hurt have found some solace in the last ten years. None of those victims will be forgotten, and I genuinely hope that they are resting in peace.