Four Years Ago

The second time in a week that I want to point you to something that Graeme Archer has written, this time a piece on the fourth anniversary of the 7/7 bombings.

Four years ago today …  Londoners will pause and remember where we were, what we thought, the panic, the fear, the claustrophobia of the phone shutdown, the numb horror – this cannot be – when the first images came on screen … the otherworldly quality of the victims emerging from the Underground – but that’s Aldgate – the scarred wreck of the bus in the square … the shameful relief when we finally made contact with our lover, our families, our friends … shameful, because fifty-two families would not experience that relief.

What do we remember now? The daytime seems lost in a red mist of anger. Mainly I remember the babbling of the evening crowd. When Keith eventually came home from work (…) we went back out at once and got on a bus just to be with other Londoners and to show that we could. We went to Columbia Road, it was a sunny evening, and we found friends, we found a street alive with noise and people and among the shock and the thawing numbness, numbness thawing into anger, into fury, into a mix of relief and anger and disbelief, we found our friends, we touched one another. Everyone’s eyes were all over the place, as though the walls of the solid London all about us were no longer to be relied upon. As indeed they weren’t; one week later the same Hackney Road bus half-detonated in the aborted second-wave attack.

And pause: we remember the fifty-two and we shudder to think of their families, for whom four years will not have passed so quickly, I think. We remember the people who survived but with wounds they will carry to their end. Is it too much to think, too, of the goodness which was seen that day, in the bravery of the victims who survived? I hope it’s not presumptious to cling to that, to take some borrowed strength (as if they don’t carry enough) from their resilience, some hope from remembering the actions of those around them.

Today we will see the memorial to the fifty-two in its home in Hyde Park. The correct setting. A beautiful memorial; fifty-two pillars of steel, clustered into the four compass points of the atrocity, each pillar commemorating the human being whose life was taken. Like all that is good in human endeavour, the pillars reach for the stars. Stars so far away, stars which know nothing of our existence, stars from which we are all made, stars we stretch our arms towards.

Words fly up? I never thought it was wrong for our thoughts to remain below. We will visit the memorial this Saturday and give our words to the missing Londoners.

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