On Thursday, July 7, 2005 four bombs were detonated in Central London during the morning rush hour. Three, triggered within a minute of each other at 8:50AM, exploded on the London Underground: the Circle Line between Liverpool Street and Aldgate, the Circle Line between Edgware Road and Paddington, and the Piccadilly Line between King’s Cross-St. Pancras and Russell Square. The fourth bomb was detonated on the top level of a double-decker bus in Tavistock Square at 9:47AM. In total 56 people were killed, including the four suicide bombers, and around 700 were injured.
I never thought being lazy could save my life. The morning of the 7th my alarm went off at 7:30AM. I had made plans the day before to meet friends at the London School of Economics library to work on papers. The plan had been to get up, shower, gather my notes and books, and walk down Holloway Road to the Holloway Road Tube station on the Piccadilly Line. The train would have made stops at Caledonian Road, King’s Cross-St. Pancras, Russell Square, and then Holborn, where I would have disembarked, and walked the short distance to campus in Central London. The trip would have put me at the LSE library at approximately 9:00AM. But, like most students at that early hour with no class to attend, I turned off my alarm, rolled over, and went back to sleep.
Two hours later there was a knock on my door. My flatmate, Meghan, came in and said the Tube had been shut down due to some explosions from power surges. She had a job interview in the south of London and was trying to figure out how she would get there. Her tone was one of frustration and annoyance.
About 20 minutes later she came back saying that not only was the Underground shut down but a bus had blown up. Her tone this time was of urgency and concern. The Tube shutting down due to power surges is one thing; a bus being blown up is another. “Are you serious?” was the only response I could produce.
I got out of bed and we went downstairs to watch the news. We channel flipped amongst the BBC 24-Hour news channel, CNN Worldwide, and local channels. They just confirmed what Meghan had said – that there were three explosions on the Tube and one bomb on a bus.
The UK channels kept using the word ‘explosion’ when referring to the Tube so I was unclear as to whether bombs were involved in light of the bus bombing. I called my parents in the US at 6:30AM EST to let them know I was okay. They had been asleep and had no idea what I was talking about. They turned on their television and told me there were four bombs. The theory of power surges proved false.
My way of processing the events was by donning my ‘media analysis’ cap and picking out the differences between what my parents were hearing and what we were hearing. Perhaps it was trivial to be paying attention to word usage at a time like that but it was all I could do as I grappled with the situation.
Bomb was a word I understood; I was used to seeing and hearing it from US news sources. But my UK news never used the word bomb pertaining to the Underground. Was it a case of the US media outlets being overexcited or the British outlets being understated? Was the meaning of the term ‘explosion’ being put through my American filter where it isn’t synonymous with bomb? Was it synonymous for a Brit?
Midday the Metropolitan Police Commissioner made a statement instructing people to stay at home and if they were already in the City, to stay at their office, university, wherever, and to not travel to central London. What I found most interesting was what happened next. The American news anchor asked if this was because it was suspected that there were more bombs. The Commissioner responded with a slight chuckle stating that no, that wasn’t the concern. The concern was that there was just no way to travel and get around the city so why bother coming in. The phrase “keep calm and carry on” came to mind from this practical thought process. His answer summed up quite well the UK response to this horrific day.
That evening I decided to stay with friends living south of the Thames. I did get on a bus, and, yes, I consciously did not sit upstairs. On a normal day, though people rarely speak to each other on the bus, you can hear the engine, mobiles ringing, and babies crying. That day even the engine was eerily quiet. There was definitely a great sense of loss and concern floating amongst the silent passengers.
I ended up having to walk the last couple of miles through the city center due to reduced service. At the time I was concentrating more on getting to my friends’ place than anything else. I do, however, remember how deserted the streets were. London is a huge metropolitan city that has people out at all hours. That day, I encountered almost no one.
A week after the bombings the transportation system continued to experience delays. The Piccadilly Line remained closed as bodies were still being removed. My flatmates and I had to rely on buses. My usual one bus for 30 minutes to reach school turned into multiple buses for two hours. With all the extra time my mind kept going back to what might have happened had I not decided I wanted more sleep. That was one day I was truly thankful for my lazy moments.