At mid-day today, July 7, 2006, London came to a standstill as there was a
two-minute silence. “7/7” is now forever itched in people’s mind. But
what was the occasion? What were people remembering?
Just another day?
July 7, 2005, started just like another other day... for me anyway. On an average day, I get to work around 8:00-8:15am. My commute usually involves taking the train into Waterloo train station, from which I catch a London Underground ('Tube') connection to Bank station using the Waterloo & City Line. On Thursday, July 7, it was no different - I got to work around 8:10am.
Owing to the terrible services we receive on the London Underground, I usually check on the Transport for London ('TfL') website to see if there are any disruption on the Tube, before getting on with my day's work. When I check the TfL website and saw that there was terrible disruption on the Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan Lines. That in itself is not unusual - the three lines share a the central London part of their tracks and so if there is a problem with any part of the line, all three will have disruptions. Anyway, the reason for the disruptions was due to a number of explosion caused by power surges. The Tube has experienced power surges before, so that wasn't that big of a deal. Also, where electricity is concerned, and in case of the Tube we are talking about very high tension and lots of power, explosions are not impossible.
I thought no more of that for the time being and got on with my day's work.
Room with a view...
My work place was a massive trading floor and it was a huge open space - about size of a full-sized football pitch. There were nearly two dozens of high quality plasma TV screens hung around the floor. Most of the important news channels were screened - Sky News, CNBC, CNN, Bloomberg TV, BBC News 24, etc. Occasionally, when there were major sporting events taking place, some of the screens were changed to the channels that covered the events and you could see people around the floor glued to the screens.
Around 10:00am, I went to the vending area for my usual breakfast (flapjacks) and a coffee. As I was returning to my desk, I noticed that a number of screens (mainly BBC News 24 and Sky News) with headlines saying there had been a massive explosion on a bus not far from Russell Square Tube station. At the time, the news was only reported in the studios as it took time to get the reporters and camera crews to the scene. Once the live pictures were beamed to our screens, I was stunned and horrified - from the angle of the pictures, the whole of the roof of the bus was ripped off the rest of the vehicle. That had to be a bomb of some sort. Then, news came through that the explosion in the Underground were not the results of 'power surges'. They were, in fact, caused by bombs. The whole London Underground network was shut down and people on trains evacuated.
Trading floors are usually abuzz with activities. People are always talking to each other about potential transactions of one sort or another. If there are 'numbers' being announced, these places are even busier as the traders and salespeople react to the news and put up new prices to reflect the economic effects of the events. When the image of the damaged bus first appeared, there was a stunned silence. Then, all out of a sudden, the whole place exploded with activities. Currencies, bonds, equities, stock loans, repos, swaps... All of these desks became hives of people manically taking or issuing trade orders. By the time I got back to my desk the Bloomberg FTSE100 screen was a sea of red and there was a flashing red line running down 'GBP' on the 'Cross Rates' screen. The markets were going completely berserk.
What really happened?
Then as news came through, it became increasingly clear that the attacks were highly coordinated and they were planned to catch Londoners just they were about to start their day, at the height of the morning rush hour. There were four bombs in total - three exploded in the Underground system and one in the bus. The three Tube bombs exploded within minutes of each other and it was suspected that the fourth bomb was detonated in the bus because the bomb carrier was forced to evacuate when the other bombs caused chaos and disruptions in the Tube networks.
Of course, at the time, we knew none of these details. In the state of confusion, there were all kinds of rumors going around. The investment banking is a knowledge- and information-based industry and to facilitate the flow of information, all kinds of tools are available to people to move information around quickly and as broadly as they'd like. While the cell phone networks were all congested (because in an emergency, the network automatically dedicate a higher proportion to allow people to access emergency services, and everyone was trying to call or text their friends and love ones to inform them of their whereabouts and whatever news they may have), e-mails and service specific messaging services, like Bloomberg or Reuters mails were used to share the news.
The morning of July 7, 2005, felt a lot like September 11, 2001. There was the same sense of remoteness, the same sense of fear. While the events in London were physically a lot closer, the fact that I was watching events unfold via the news channels and the internet, I felt detached from them, to a certain extent. The feeling was very hard to explain and it is certainly beyond my ability to fully put into words.
At the same time, I felt helpless. As the news broke, the fragmented nature of the news, the way events appeared initially to be disjointed. Based on the fragments of information, it was very difficult to establish a timeline, which made it very difficult for me to make some kind of coherent sense of the situation. I guess that was what people generally call confusion. It was certainly confusing: Were there more bombs yet to explode? How many people were hurt and killed? Was the Ruler_of_spike ok? Who were behind these events? How badly was our city affected? How was I going to get home? What would be long-term effects? That was a whole list of questions which there were no answers for. They were just there, being asked...
The short-term questions were gradually being answered in the hours, days and weeks following the terrorist attacks. For me, the most important was that the Ruler_of_spike was safe, and she was. After that, all problems were relatively manageable.
We’re not Afraid!
Looking back on the events on July 7, 2005, while the shock value certainly remains the impact of the attacks was not anywhere near as drastic as the doom and gloom some had predicted. Yes, security (or the appearance of) seems to have improved, but if you have landed in London from another planet you would not be able to tell the difference between today’s London and the one immediately before the attacks.
Immediately after the attacks, a website was setup to demonstrate the resilience of the people of London and the support from citizens around the world. That is exactly the attitude that speaks in one voice to those extremists: “You may be able to inflict some damage, but you will not beat us!”
For a year, I did not write anything on the events on that day. I
don’t know why, may be the feelings were too raw to put anything down in
writing. It really doesn’t matter! We haven’t been beaten. We’re still
here: enjoying, contributing and coping with the city. London is still
thriving: tourists and businesses are still being attracted to this
city. If we, the people who live and work in London and the city itself,
haven’t lost, you have to wonder who the losers are? Shame, they didn’t
figure this out before July 7, 2005.
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