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7/7 Remembered - How the Bombings Showed Our Country Is the Model of Resilience

05/07/2015 01:02 BST | Updated 05/07/2016 10:59 BST

To mark the 10 year anniversary of the London 7/7 terrorist attacks, HuffPost UK is running Beyond The Bombings, a special series of interviews, blogs, in-depth features and exclusive research reflecting on how Britain has changed since.

77 bombings

On 7 July 2005, 52 people lost their lives in London and nearly 800 were injured, many of them horribly.

We are bound in remembrance of those who died. But we also can remember the juxtaposition of the exhilarating and, for most, unexpected winning of the 2012 Olympics in Singapore. I can never think of one event without the other. They are forever intertwined in my memory.

I thought about 7 July again and again during those golden weeks of the Olympic and Paralympic Games when the sun seemed to shine on everything we wanted this country to be.

I thought about 7 July especially during the two minutes silence at Danny Boyle's brilliant opening ceremony.

I saw the forward-looking, expansive, optimistic vision of Britain that the opening ceremony represented and I thought that this was something the bombers and their supporters would have hated - all those nations, with their different views, their different cultures, their different traditions, coming together in a spirit of peace and play.

So it was a deeply civilised thing that we did in those marvellous two weeks in the summer of 2012. It was a triumphant embodiment of the spirit that won us the Olympics and embodied too the values that saw us through the bombings.

This city, this country, this people are a model of resilience.

Let me describe in more detail what I mean by resilience, in practical terms. Building adaptability to change and challenge must be done with empathy. And that is not just about contingency planning, about being braced for attack. Empathy extends to the built environment - how new parts of our city are designed, how they fit with existing communities. So often 'development' is seen as destructive of community. We need to keep a wide vision, looking at more than what immediately meets the eye, thinking empathically about how what is done affects the people all around.

Just look at the way the Olympic Park was developed. The idea was not just to transform the waterlogged and contaminated brownfield site into a glorious Olympic Park but also to bind a community together, to help develop its capacity, to tighten and strengthen its bonds.

Technical systems, flood warnings, fire, police and intelligence services keep us safe, but they are at their most effective when their roots are deep in the communities which they serve, and when they are deployed with empathy.

That is what builds the capacity to withstand shocks, to adapt to the unforeseen event. Systems rely on community or, as Jane Jacobs would observe, "eyes on the street".

The way we organise against disaster is, of course, the practical embodiment, however expressed in the dry bureaucratic language of public policy, of the resilience of the city. But resilience is also written deep into the public realm of a great city like London, and no city has a richer or more varied public realm than London.

Glorious public spaces - parks where people meet as equals; galleries run in the public interest by trustees rather than under the control of the Government. The writer John Lanchester has pointed out that the last bomb exploded on a street which in many ways captures what is special about London - its diversity and individuality. That street runs from The Thames to Hampstead in a straight line. But on that journey north through the city it has some 13 names. It begins as Kingsway, then becomes Southampton Row, Russell Square, Woburn Place, Tavistock Square - where the bomb went off and where we are this evening - Upper Woburn Place, Evershot Street, Camden High Street, Chalk Farm Road, Haverstock Hill, Roslyn Hill and finally Hampstead High Street.

It contains so many stories, so many memories, so many references to places and things past and present, so many multitudes of the living and of the dead.

Resilience is rooted in optimism. Behind the strength to stand firm lies the feeling that tomorrow will be better than today.

Resilience relies on a commitment to our way of life but also the feeling that life can improve. Progress is not an illusion even in the darkest of hours.

Writing the day after the bombings Ian McEwan quoted WH Auden's great poem, Musee des Beaux Arts in which life goes on, oblivious to the tragedy within sight. It goes as follows:

"About suffering they were never wrong,

The old Masters: how well they understood

Its human position: how it takes place

While someone else is eating or opening a window or

just walking dully along;"

But this did not happen at all in London. The city did not walk dully along at all; people did not turn away from what had happened. It rallied with a fierce determination not to be turned from its nature as an open and welcoming city.

The story of London on and after 7 July 2005, despite the pain and the anguish which will never abate, is a more optimistic story than that. People stopped to help. We mourned together. It changed us.

The bombs brought fire and death; but I recall that one of the Olympic symbols is a torch. That was the fire which lit London three years ago, which London will carry forever, and in whose flickering light the names of those who died will live for evermore.

Dame Tessa Jowell is the Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, former secretary of state for culture, media and sport, and is seeking nomination to be Labour's London Mayoral candidate in 2016

How was Britain impacted by the 7/7 bombings? Join the @HuffPostUK conversation on Twitter with #BeyondTheBombings