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.
Tonight I'm sitting here in very different circumstances to that of 7 July 2005. The 'event' for me kind of began the night before, standing outside the 100 Club on London's Oxford Street having an argument with my then girlfriend. The argument was probably over something trivial, but it's an argument that I'm glad I had that night. 'Right, I WILL go home tonight' I shouted as I wandered off to my flat in Clapham. She wandered off to her flat in Aldgate.
The next morning started, for me at least, like any other morning. I got up far too early and made my way into central London on the bus. At this point there were very few people who knew of the events that were about to unfold. I arrived at my office in Soho Square to find my colleagues talking about 'tube problems' and 'power surges' which were causing misery for commuters. As time went on more details started to emerge and it was then that we all heard the word 'bomb' mentioned. We quickly hooked up the portable TV, something that usually only came out on Budget day! Could this really be happening in London? Could this really be happening to us?
I can remember standing by my desk talking to a colleague and hearing what sounded like an explosion. 'There goes another one' I said. And I was right. The number 30 had just gone up in Tavistock Square, not too far from the office.
By this time landline and mobile signals were very intermittent, either through sheer usage or they'd been turned off by the authorities. Eventually I reached my friend who was in her office in Bethnal Green. Despite living directly above one of the bomb sites she didn't have a clue what had happened, except that she'd noticed a higher than normal amount of sirens that morning.
By about 10:30am we decided that it would probably be a good idea to evacuate the office and head for home, but my home was in Clapham and the Aldgate flat was most likely a no-go area for the time being. So, we all set off walking to the East End where some colleagues had arranged to meet their friends and families. One memory that will remain with me forever was the scene outside the Spice of Life pub at Cambridge Circus. This normally busy junction was deserted except for an Army landrover and an empty double decker bus parked at strange angles on the Charing Cross Road. It looked like a scene from 28 Days Later. Bombs had just crippled London and killed and injured numerous people - but the thought of that just seemed surreal to me. The deserted streets seemed to make it very real though.
After what seemed like an endless walk we all made it to the East End, and I headed down to Bethnal Green. After the customary cup of tea in such situations we walked back to the flat in Aldgate. The area was a sea of police, ambulances and fire fighters behind a cordon that stretched from the Aldgate roundabout right down to Leadenhall Street. There was no way that we were getting into the flat for a while. After several hours sitting in pubs and walking the streets we attempted a retreat back to the flat, only to be told that we wouldn't be let in 'for a few days'. Transport had re-started on a minimal scale by this time, but there was no way that we were getting south of the river tonight.
We wandered around the City for a while trying to find a hotel but, not surprisingly they were all full. One well-known chain had even increased their prices - nice touch. The only hotel that we could find with vacancies was a five star affair near Tower Bridge. We walked in expecting short thrift from the Manager, but my faith in humanity was restored when he offered us a suite at a snip of the normal price after listening to our story. This guy, Royce was his name, was a true gent, and if it wasn't for him I have absolutely no idea what we would have done that night.
When we were finally let back in to the flat we had to enter with a police escort. Aldgate tube station was still a major crime scene and the firemen were retrieving bodies from the remains of the bombed tube train. I know a fireman or two who say that the job can't be allowed to affect them, but seeing them with looks of despair, staring at the floor, not speaking to each other sat on Aldgate High Street that afternoon made me realise what a tough job they had.
At the start of this post I said that the previous night's argument was something that I was glad had happened. I've always been more of a bus person than a tube person, but I always caught the Circle line to work whenever I stayed in Aldgate, at around the time the bomb exploded. It's not good to dwell on what could have happened, but it does make you take stock of your life. Unfortunately some people weren't as fortunate. A friend's childhood boyfriend died on the bus in Tavistock Square, having seemingly been evacuated from Kings Cross station following the explosion near there.
Well, that's my story of 7 July 2005, and I'm just eternally thankful that I'm still here to tell it.