7/7 bus survivors pay silent tribute at scene of bomb ten years on
Published 07/07/2015 | 14:31
It is an image of the July 7 attacks that is forever burned into the public consciousness - that of a red London doubled-decker bus, shredded and split open, its twisted metal lying across the streets of Tavistock Square.
Ten years on, survivors of that carnage and those who rushed to help the injured returned to the scene to reflect on their memories of the horror.
It was at 9.47am that morning that 18-year-old Hasib Hussain, the youngest of the four bombers, detonated a bomb on the top deck of the number 30 bus, killing 13 people and injuring more than 110.
By chance, the explosion occurred just a stone's throw from the headquarters of the British Medical Association (BMA), where a conference was being held, and scores of doctors and staff ran to help.
Today families and friends of those who died gathered at the exact spot the bomb went off, where a small plaque records the names of the dead. Among those laying flowers outside the BMA was George Psaradakis, the driver of the bus.
As people paused by the bouquets, off to one side a man sat cross-legged on the ground, eyes shut tight and hands pressed together as he prayed quietly by a small bunch of flowers tied to the railings.
Across the road more survivors and family members gathered for a memorial service. Rabbi Shlomo Levin from South Hampstead synagogue gave a prayer of remembrance and Dr Paul Holden, who commanded the casualty clearing site at the scene, lit a candle.
Then, at 9.47am exactly, the crowd fell silent, a minute of quiet contemplation rooted in memory, regret, anger, sadness and love.
During his prayer, Rabbi Levin asked for "rest and the absence of anguish" for the souls of the 13 people who were killed at the hands of "evil men" who were bent on causing death, mayhem and destruction.
He said: "Grant strength to the survivors and the families of the dead that they may rebuild their lives in honour and dignity free from the fear of stalking evil.
"May the death of these fellow citizens reinforce the conviction of all decent men and women that life takes precedence over death, that good will outweigh evil and that in our society acts of religious intolerance and destruction will never be permitted to prevail."
Jacky Berry, from the BMA, spoke to the hundreds-strong crowd about the bravery of staff at the association who helped save so many lives after the bomb went off.
Around 20 doctors were at the BMA that day for a conference, and their decisive actions in the immediate aftermath proved critical.
Ms Berry said: "Within seconds of the bomb exploding outside BMA House on July 7 2005, a police officer at the scene shouted 'run'.
"Almost everyone ran. Today, we remember those whose injuries meant they couldn't run. But we also remember those whose instinct it was to run towards the bus, not away from it."
The doctors were GPs, she said, medical professionals who would see trauma on such a large scale rarely, if ever.
But they reponded by taking the suffering inside the BMA, using table tops as stretchers and making use of table cloths and tea towels as improvised dressings until supplies arrived.
She said: "They lacked the most basic equipment, but there was so much they had, and were able to give, to the passengers of the number 30 bus.
"Under superb leadership, those doctors formed an instant, effective and compassionate team. Their actions, but more than that their kindness, are still remembered by those whom they treated."
She added: "Today is about remembering, but also about healing. There are physical wounds, and while many have been healed or at last alleviated, for some the need for physical healing continues."
The mayor of Camden Larraine Revah was joined by the deputy lieutenant for London Sir Ian Johnston in laying a wreath at the foot of the memorial candle, and after many of the friends and family members left for a service at St Paul's Cathedral there were also speeches from the Reverend Jenny Hogan and Imam Mehmed Stublla, from the British Albanian Muslim Community in Camden.
And as Alice Fidler, a 15-year-old pupil at La Sainte Union School in Highgate who was just five when the atrocity occurred, sang the hymn Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace, people came forward to light candles of remembrance.
Among those at the service was Stephen Boyd, 58, who on the day was working as a security supervisor at the BMA's entrance, signing people in and out.
Mr Boyd said he felt the ceremony was a wonderful way for people to get together and see that there is "still a lot of love in the world".
He attended to pay his respects to the families who had lost loved ones and to thank the doctors and emergency services who "performed marvellously" on the day.
But he said he had been traumatised by "one of the most tragic events I have ever known", and that the anniversary "breaks my heart" every year.
Recalling the incident, he said: "The explosion happened on the bus and I came outside the building to see what was going on.
"Obviously from then you just go into overdrive and you just do everything you can to help under such atrocious circumstances, and you can't do no more.
"It wasn't just me, obviously not - there were doctors, police, ambulance, emergency services, staff - and their efforts I will never forget.
"I will always be grateful to everybody who was there, for the right reasons, to try and help the hurt, injured and traumatised and those who lost their lives."
Describing the attacks as "just appalling", he said: "I can't see how an event like that wins anything.
"I think it is a travesty in itself and I can never forgive them (the bombers) for what they have done.
"But it is wonderful to see the people here today that can have such love and kindness for each other, and no matter what they have done they will never take that away."