I appreciate this isn't the usual Frocks' blog but as we are, today, remembering the terrorist attacks on London of exactly 10 years ago. I woke up this morning and wanted to write down some personal memories of that horrific day. I hope you don't mind.
I know the story of my life on Facebook often seems to be a delayed train here, a cancelled train there but I am honestly now of the opinion that a) there is nothing you can do and b) there is such a thing as fate! I know that the loved ones of the 52 people who lost their lives 10 years ago today are likely not to agree, nor the scores of fellow commuters who suffered life changing injuries – mentally as well as physically – but for me, that very short delay in to St Pancras that morning meant that I was not on the Piccadilly line, passing through Russell Square, at 8.50, as I would normally have been. Not of course that I’d have necessarily been on that exact tube train, although it would have been that carriage – not that we’re creatures of habit or anything! What is so sad is that I’m certain the reverse is the case for many - they were late, on a different route, all manner of reasons but they too may not have been due to be at that point in time, on that day but so sadly they were.
I remember some bits so very clearly and others a total blur; I remember being on the train with a guy attending a course somewhere near Hyde Park Corner, so going on the Piccadilly line – he hadn’t been into town much so I said, I’d be going down to that line so I’d show him. As I mentioned the train was late – literally around 8 mins – we walked down to the underground, as far as the escalators but then the evacuation started. To be honest, I’ve been evacuated a fair few times from Kings Cross (not a lot, but enough not to be concerned), so the likelihood was it was a false alarm or some sad person had decided this morning was the day to take their own life on the tracks. Little did we know then that it was in fact FOUR, twisted souls who had taken that choice and decided to take others with them on their voyage.
By the time we came above ground there were already tonnes of sirens, and more in your ears all the time. Time gets a little lost at this stage but assume it was around 9.15. Not surprisingly the buses were starting to get packed but for the chap from the train it was still going to be the most direct route to his destination, so we worked out which was best and he popped on that bus – I don’t recall which route number now, but do remember that it wasn’t the Number 30 I did wonder in the weeks that followed though whether Mr Russell Square bomber was in that same bus queue, after all it was from there that he took his alternative last journey. The office wasn’t really that far and it wasn’t a bad day weather wise so I decided the best option was to walk.
I walked South, I remember my phone had died, I remember walking and the longer I walked the more sirens I could hear, and helicopters above by now. I don’t know how to describe it but you know that feeling when you just KNOW there is something really not good. I’m not certain I didn’t run the last part of the route. The Russell Square bomb was close enough to hear but I didn’t know at the time that was what it was, I just wanted to get to the office – all things running through my head - my sister, Sara, she travels on the tube too, was she okay? My phone was dead, I needed to get to somewhere that I could feel grounded. I remember walking up the stairs to the office – Sara had apparently rung several times already (having not been able to get hold of me on the mobile); she worked in TV and had heard that there had been an “incident” on the tube and (at this stage, and for a considerable time) there was no suggestion of bombings – I remember calling her back and bursting in to tears. Everyone in the office thought I was mad but equally it was so early noone had heard that there had even been a major incident. There was still no comprehension of what had actually happened, nor that there were scores of people trapped underground, or a few streets away.
Okay, so Sara and I were fine, so we calmed a little. Sara went into the studio – she presented for Bloomberg TV at the time – and spent the remainder of the day delivering live news feeds to their audience across London; I’m not sure I could have done that but she’s amazing at her job and didn’t move from the front of that camera for over six hours. I, in the office, watched the news unfold via the laptop – instead of feeling better, I started to feel physically sick and am certain I wasn’t the only one.
There were no mobile signals anywhere – Jon (my husband was on exercise in the West Country with the RAF) – I couldn’t get hold of him to say that all was okay. Jon, I found out later – along with those around him – had been told of the attacks in London but had initially assumed it was part of their exercise; when he realised this wasn’t the case and couldn’t get hold of me he jumped in his car back along the motorway – not actually sure what he was going to do, and getting into quite a bit of trouble in the process. Meanwhile, I left the office early – it took hours, as you can imagine Kings Cross/St Pancras were all cordoned off – I eventually walked to Sara’s offices in Finsbury Square, hoping we might get a lift, that didn’t happen, so we walked back again. I walked a lot that day - as I'm sure did many others. I don’t even remember what train we eventually got – it was late - or to where. The Friday I didn’t go in.
Nothing however prepared me for the following week – train into St Pancras, all fine, expecting to walk to work; clearly no chance the Piccadilly line, or the station will be fit for some time. But, the people and the posters – I definitely hadn’t appreciated (nor I would imagine had the majority of us) that there were travellers still missing, unidentified, and their families were still holding out hope. There were faces on posters, on pillars and being handed out. The faces of those handing them out hanging on to every last piece of hope and the faces of the missing looking back from the paper. That was just awful, really really heart-breaking. That whole week following, you’d arrive and take a deep breath but by the time you had walked through to the Euston Road, there would be tears rolling down the cheeks. How horrific must that have been - just not knowing?
I still feel physically sick about that day, and the awful days that followed. I get an instant lump in my throat when I recall everything; so cannot for a second imagine how awful it must be for the family and friends of those who did lose their lives on this day 10 years ago. Nor can I comprehend the trauma that I’m certain those, who were a lot more closely involved than I luckily ever was, probably go through on a regular basis. I do travel on the underground now if I need to but it took a long time. Kings Cross has also dramatically changed in recent years but for a long time you could picture those poor families handing out posters of missing loved ones.
Rest in peace to all those who lost their lives, strength be with those left behind and terrorism does not beat you, it just makes us stronger xx