I have been a Londoner for five years now. I don't technically live in London, I say this before someone I know points it out, but I do live in the London Borough of Redbridge. I have always worked in the center or City of London and I travel in on the Central Line. What ever people say about where I live, I consider myself a Londoner, and I have never been as proud to be one as I was last Thursday.
My story isn't full of excitement, it's not a tale of close shaves and near misses, it is simply about a very strange day in the office. My girlfriend and I arrive at Liverpool Street station at 9:10am, about fifteen minutes after the first bomb went off. We did notice that the doors to the underground were closed and there was a police cordon around them, but we just assumed it was another scare, or a fire or something. In fact we joked about it, suggesting that there must have been a tiger on the loose in there.
Had we known that a few hundred yards down that tunnel one of our colleagues had been concentrating on reading his book and missed his stop at Liverpool Street. That he had been in the carriage behind the one with the bomb in it and that at that moment he was helping people along the tracks, we might not have made light of the situation. But we didn't know, and wouldn't until we reached work.
Only six of us actually made it all the way into the office on Thursday. We spent the morning tracking down the other members of staff. The guy who was in the Liverpool Street/Aldgate crash got out with only a few cuts and bruises, in fact he was home before we left the office at half four. We had a team of people who were meant to be catching a train from Kings Cross, but they had not got there when it happened and so were fine. Another colleague got off of his train, finding he couldn't take the underground was directed to walk, which he did, straight to Tavistock Place where he was 50 feet from the number 30 when it went up. We heard from him, shaken but okay at just gone 10am.
By midday we had accounted for everyone who we worked with, I had heard from all friends and family. So we all just sat there, watching the web, streaming in News24, listening to BBC London on the radio. Our offices are between Liverpool Street and Old Street stations, it was best that we just stayed put. So we did. We had lots of really sweet phone calls and e-mails from partners, suppliers and clients who knew where we were and wanted to check we were al okay.
My story is not one from the center of what was going on, I didn't see a thing. Instead mine is a story of being stuck and watching events unfold around us. Watching as the London emergency plan, the plan that no one ever wanted to put into action but knew they would, unfolded before us. From my layman's perspective, it seemed to go perfectly. From later accounts the Royal London Hospital was cleared and sealed from the public within 20-30 minutes, by the end of the day they had triaged over 200 people. Within 30 minutes there were 200 ambulances in London. Doctors were flown out to the scenes in the air ambulance to provide onsite care. While it would never be a good thing to have to put emergency plans to the test, the emergency services did seem to do the most amazing job.
Not only the professionals, but also the general public. Apparently all was calm, and most of London was back up and running on Friday morning. As I said, I have never been so proud to be a Londoner. I have been here five years now, and in all that time people knew that this would happen one day, knew that we were a major target. I suspect that since September 11th 2001 and other events, each person has sub-consciously been building there own personal emergency plan, which went into action Thursday morning. I have never heard from so many friends and family on one day. It is not only what people did that is impressive, but the way that they went about it. I lost track of the number of people I spoke to on my mobile, who said something like "well as long as you are okay, I don't want to tie up the phone system any more". People kept their heads, while very few around them lost theirs.
I was going to post a rant about how the London Olympics will never work, and my sudden pride in being a Londoner will not change my feelings about it. But that can wait till next week. Thanks to everyone that phoned to check how we were.