London July 2005

1st August 2005

Last month I spoke about my new feelings regarding switching jobs but failed to mention explicity where my new job was based; Hammersmith, London. Luckily for me not starting until the 11th of July meant I was nowhere near the capital on the 7th July 2005. Just in case anyone has avoided all current events with a passion, on the 7th of July four suicide bombers travelled into London and detonated explosive devices on three tube trains and one bus, resulting in the death of 52 people and injury of some 700 more. This article is going to cover my impression of the sort of impact this event has had.

I imagine there are some people out there who will not travel to London anymore for fear of being caught up in an event like that of 7/7. Considering my position of having just started a job in the capital the idea of cancelling my acceptance and returning to my old job did cross my mind. The idea didn't really last much longer than a few seconds and I carried on preparing myself for starting the new job, but it did make me think that a lot of people might react very differently in similar circumstances.

Since I didn't have to travel too far once I was in London I imagined I would be safe, and looked on the events of 7/7 as being tragic but ultimately carried out by idiots with limited common sense. It did however make me much more aware of people around me on the underground when travelling to work, and ultimately stopped me bringing my laptop to work with me. I reasoned that I never used it and it wasn't worth the potential hassle of being searched by one of the now seemingly ever present police patrols at Victoria station.

I was also very impressed, as were many others, with the resilience of the London population who simply continued on with their lives and carried on as far as they could as though nothing had happened. The newspapers were filled with details of the investiagtions being carried out which I absorbed on my journey to and from work. The newspapers also began to highlight the growing suspicion travellers had started to have toward one another: anyone carrying a bag was observed by all and especially if they appeared to be Muslim.

This heightened sense of suspicion seemed to spread, as I discovered when getting tickets at Brighton station. I walked into the ticket office and saw a large black suitcase left next to a pillar. Considering the recent events I thought it was odd that no-one had pointed it out so assumed it had not been there long and joined the queue. Another person joined behind me and then a woman behind him, who noticed as the queue moved that no-one had taken the case with them. She began to raise the alarm. The queue of people looked around and the people at the ticket desks stopped serving as calls for the owner to claim their bag or have it taken away went out over the station. The woman who had raised the alarm had actually left the ticket office and seemed to be trying to get as far away from the station as possible meanwhile a man from nearer the front of the queue sheepishly walked over, and with an Italian accent asked if this was the bag that was unattended, grabbed the handle and dragged it down the queue next to him. This event in my mind seemed like over-reaction and was playing into the hands of the terrorists, but at the same time I thought that by leaving his bag there the owner had been very inconsiderate to others.

On my continuing commute into London I tried as best I could to take as little with me as possible, usually just a book and a newspaper, to try and help reduce the crowding on the tube and try to rule myself out as a potential threat. At the same time I did find myself wondering more and more why many people continued to carry bags with them, and on reflection wonder if they are trying to stand up to the bombers in their own way. By carrying on exactly as they would had nothing happened as if to show that the terrorists cannot change them.

Considering other events later in the month (another attempted attack on the 21st of July and a shooting by police on the tube a day later), my first few weeks of commuting to London have been a very interesting time indeed. It can't be denied that the terrorist attacks have changed things. I just hope that people in London can be strong together and not turn on each other in the times that lay ahead.