Remembering, Not Celebrating, Is What Matters Today

7 07 2015

7:7 2

It is hard to believe that it is ten years ago today since my home town was attacked just as the morning rush hour began. Less than 12 hours before, the city had been buzzing with the news that London had been chosen as the venue for the 2012 Olympics and we had greeted this announcement in a local pub with a mixture of joy – because the French didn’t get it – and pessimism…because that’s what Londoners do.

As my Facebook timeline continues to remind me, today is my birthday.

I am 47. i no longer live in London and have moved across the pond. Last weekend was one of celebration for my American friends, all of whom reminded me that they had kicked our butts in 1776 as part of a general concept of freedom…light-hearted banter that I responded to with a slight smile or shake of the head.

But on July 7, 2005, the thought that I would not be in London to remember the 52 people who lost their lives as part of a targeted bombing campaign by radical Muslims would have been alien to me. On that day, our freedom was brutally shattered as the world-famous public underground system became a symbol of terror and suicidal intent. The fact that these bombers were later found to be home-grown just added to the hurt that was felt by every single person who lived, worked and breathed in arguably the greatest city on the planet.

As was the feeling that we had been singled out because we were involved in a war that America had started. Don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming the United States for 7/7, but the irony of what happened that day has never fully left me. London had been bombed before, we understood the concept of terror more than most European cities. However, this time it was different.

And not just because it was my birthday. That was immaterial. What mattered to me on that day was that my friends were caught up in it and, as mobile networks failed to either keep up with the demands being put on them or just shut down, not knowing if I would see them again meant that I thought of nothing else.

Naturally I was not be alone, as thousands of other people around the world tried to get hold of loved ones who they knew might have been affected – my LA-based American girlfriend of the time told me that she had been trying to get hold of me for around 10 hours…by the time she did, I had supped a few pints in the pub as we waited for people to walk back through the door.

In the ten years since, July 7 has become a day of sadness for me.

Yes, I have enjoyed some birthdays and had a good time with friends and family – in England, Bermuda and my adopted town of Cohasset, Massachusetts – but 7/7 now has a greater significance from a global standpoint. I know people who cry on 9/11, I have mates whose special days are forever associated with acts of terror – or, increasingly, mass shootings – and who, understandably, don’t feel that they should enjoy themselves when people died for a cause that had nothing to do with them (or their lives).

And that is what makes me sad. Not that I get to relive the events of July 7 2005 every single year, but that 52 people left for work on that morning and never came home.

It is for those people that I will be raising a glass to tonight. They will never be forgotten.

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