This morning, just after rush hour, I was on the tube, heading for a meeting in central London. As luck would have it, I was heading south from Kings Cross to Holborn. As we passed through Russell Square station, I glanced at a small group of people on the platform. They were standing still, oblivious to the train – clearly there for a reason other than travel. And then I remembered the date.
Five years ago, at the same time in the morning, I was in Canary Wharf, on my way to a Skills UK event in Newham. News filtered through to us that the tube system was shutting down, due to an incident close to Russell Square.
That day, the day of the London bombings, I experienced the worst and best of what living in one of the world’s greatest capitals can mean. The worst, because so many people had their lives tragically changed that morning. One was a Career Academy student, on his way to his internship placement. He was caught on the tube that was bombed. Luckily, he was not in the carriage where the bomber created his deadly havoc. But he did inhale the smoke and was evacuated with the other surviving victims of terrorism.
That same day, London pulled together. Our students were walked home by volunteers from out various supporting companies. They were put on boats and escorted up to Canary Wharf , from where we put them on buses. Some actually joined the teams in their host companies who were coordinating the mass exodus through a city with little public transport. They and their colleagues demonstrated selflessness and courage in the face of terrorism.
That evening , I joined the Scout Group in Coram Fields, close to Russell Square. They were meeting as usual, undaunted, because the kids needed Scouting and normality that evening. And they have an amazing Group Scout Leader who recognised their needs.
London felt no different today, of course, from other days. Why should it? But five years ago it did feel different. It felt strong and unified in a commitment to get on with things, despite the atrocities that had been committed against it.
The best of London is the ability it has to “keep calm and carry on”. Which is what I did for the rest of today, as it happens, along with everyone else.