It’s 15 years since 7/7. I’m writing this as much as an act of remembering as remembrance.
In 2005, I was living in Dalston in Hackney, working for a design agency in Soho. On 7 July at 08:45, I was getting off a 149 bus at Liverpool Street, about to get the Central Line to Tottenham Court Road.
I became aware that something was wrong on descending the stairs at Bishopgate and reaching the station concourse at Liverpool Street.
Alarms started sounding — not unusual — but then from behind me, ten or more policemen sprinted past. They looked young and scared. And then the shutters came down.
More alarms, measured announcements to exit the station. No panic, it’s London.
Later we’d learn that a bomb had exploded on a train travelling from Liverpool Street to Aldgate, killing 7 people.
I remember walking outside, finding signal, calling the agency to explain that something big seemed to be happening, that there were no underground services, and I was going to be late, really late.
I don’t recall how I eventually made it to Soho. By bus, I assume.
By the time I got there, the Tavistock Square bomb had gone off 2 miles north, destroying the upper deck of the number 30 bus, killing 13. 4 bombers with 4 bombs, 52 people dead.
At work on Frith Street, every monitor was showing news websites, desk phones and mobiles ringing with staffers calling in to say they couldn’t find a way in to work. There was no work. The radio was on. We switched between websites — ‘have you seen?’ — as news and rumour unevenly spread between them, the internet connection struggling with our constant refreshing. We were waiting for more bombs.
By early afternoon the decision was made to send everyone home. We walked the studio space making sure people were ok, that they had a plan for how to get home. Voices were soft and low, faces blank, some tears too.
Back outside, there were no buses. It was sunny enough that I carried my jacket. The roads were mostly empty, nearby sirens turned heads, the pavements busy with people all headed in one direction: home.
Soho Square, Oxford Street, Theobolds Road, Old Street, Kingsland Road.
Over an hour later, I was 100 yards away from home when I next saw a bus, heading north. Downstairs it was crammed to capacity, but upstairs it was empty.