On July 7th 2005 I was in London. I was there to attend a meeting at the UNISON HQ building, which is at the corner of Euston Rd and Mabledon Place, about 400 metres from King’s Cross Station, and just a few streets away from both Tavistock Square and Russell Square. Unusually for me I’d taken the decision to travel down the night before and stay over at the Novotel, which is directly opposite UNISON HQ on Euston Rd: a random decision, but one for which I’ll always be grateful.

Anyway, these are just some snatches of my memories of that day, and of the days and weeks that followed.

I can remember:

Coming out of the hotel with a colleague at about 9.45am, and it suddenly registering that apart from emergency vehicles, there was none of the normal traffic on Euston Rd.

Glancing down towards King’s Cross, taking in all the flashing lights and sirens outside the station. Wondering why? What’s happened?

Crossing the road, and then stopping halfway to ask a police officer what was going on.

Him muttering something about a power surge in the underground system, but then as we were still standing with him, a noise in the near distance. A bang? A thud? What was it?

Another police officer suddenly sprinting past us, shouting “Shit! Another one’s gone off!”

Standing there, in the middle of Euston Rd, wanting to shout back “What? Another what’s gone off?” but being too scared to.

Looking back at the officer we’d been talking to, and realising he’d been lying to us. Him asking us “Where are you going?” Me, pointing at the UNISON building, and then him “You’d better get inside then.”

I can remember:

Other women arriving for the meeting. Lots of talking, speculating, about what was going on in the streets outside.

Someone starting the meeting, but then an interruption. Someone telling us that everyone in the building would be assembling in the conference room soon, the General Secretary was coming to talk to us all.

The room filling up. More talking, more speculation. And then Dave Prentis was there.

Hearing him say that there’d been bombs. There’d been bombs on the underground. And a bus blown up. Just round the corner.

Thinking. That noise. That bang. When we were crossing the road. What was it?

People asking – has everyone you were expecting turned up today? Is anyone missing? Then people taking phone numbers, wanting our details. “Do not leave the building” they said. It was an instruction from the police they said. We were in the exclusion zone, the area had been completely sealed off, but we weren’t being evacuated for now, we had to stay put.

The room emptying again.

And then people complaining. Wanting us to get on with the meeting. “We’re all here” they said “we may as well just carry on with it.”

Thinking no. We can’t do this. Not now. Not today.

The meeting being abandoned. Women sitting around instead on desks and chairs, talking, reassuring each other. Then some of them leaving. Ignoring the instruction to stay put. Heading back to airports. “We’ll take the chance” they said.

And me. Too scared to go anywhere for a while. I’m not leaving. Not yet. Not until I’m told it’s safe.

I can remember:

Desperately wanting to go home.

Finally managing to get through to Dave on someone’s office phone.

Refusing to use the lift, and instead climbing the 8/9 flights of stairs up to the restaurant floor.

Looking out of the windows from those top floors and seeing the scenes of chaos outside King’s Cross.

Looking back into the room where someone had turned on a tv, and staring at it in horror as the scenes from just beyond the window were beamed back at us.

After what seemed like hours stepping just outside the main entrance doors for a cigarette.

Seeing nurses, doctors, in scrubs, running up Euston Rd.

Everyone assembling again in the conference room. It’s still not safe they said, everyone has to stay here.

Hearing “No trains. You won’t get home tonight. Who needs a room?”

My hand going up.

Thinking “but I want to go home.”

I can remember:

Sitting next to a young woman in the foyer.

She’s in shock.

Can’t talk.

Staring straight ahead.

Was she on the bus? The tube?

Noticing her clothes.

What’s that speckling her top?

Blood? Flesh?

But she’s not hurt.

Then whose is it?

And what’s that smell?

Wanting to scream

I can remember:

More people leaving

Not me

Is it safe yet? I’ll go when it’s safe.

I can remember:

Walking

A group of us. Trying to find the hotel we’d been told had been booked for us.

But that can’t be right. It’s in Russell Square.

Look, there’s the bus. That bang this morning. Crossing the road. Here it is.

Asking another police officer. Our hotel? Can we get to it?

No. These streets are sealed off.

Someone talking into their phone.

Another hotel

The first one. We can go back to the Novotel. It’s ok, they’ve got rooms for us.

Stopping for a drink.

Hundreds of people crowded into the bar. Everyone solemn and watching the tv screen

Laughing at something someone said.

All of us laughing

Heads turned towards us

Shush. We shouldn’t be laughing. Not now. Not today.

I can remember:

Ordering room service.

No, I don’t want to meet you downstairs in the restaurant or in the bar.

I don’t want to see people.

I’ve run out of words.

Just leave me alone.

Can’t eat.

Putting the tray of uneaten food back outside my door.

Watching the news

Lying awake listening to the sirens.

Sirens screaming all through the night.

I can remember:

Getting up early

Crossing Euston Rd to go and buy a coffee

Cars, traffic on the road.

Is it safe now?

Walking past the reporters and the cameras at King’s Cross Station

Can’t stop to chat. I’m going home.

Sitting on the train

My colleague: “Well, that was all very exciting.”

Me: “No. It wasn’t. It really really wasn’t.”

I can remember:

At work a week later

There’s going to be a 3 minute silence for the victims.

I can’t be here. I can’t be in this building when the world stops again.

Walking outside.

Sitting on the steps as the clock chimes.

The traffic stops.

Everyone, all the people milling around, stop and stand still.

I’m sitting on the steps

And I’m crying.

I get my bike out of the bike shed

I’m cycling away. Pedalling as hard as I can.

I’m lying on grass in a park

But I didn’t tell anyone I was leaving.

I can remember:

The next day

My manager calls me in to her office.

People are worried about you she says.

You’re not yourself.

I’m fine, I say

It was horrible. I got scared.

I saw things. Bad things.

But I’m fine.

Then the fire alarm goes off

“Please evacuate the building” comes over the tannoy.

I’m walking down the fire escape stairs

All of us. Staff, customers, we’re trooping down the stairs together.

I can’t stop shaking

I’m outside

I’m shaking and I’m crying again

In front of all these people.

My manager hands me a number

“Phone them” she says

“No one has to know.

They can help you.”

I can remember

And I’ll always remember July 7th 2005.

It’s not a constant memory, like it was for the first 6 months or so, but there are still days, like today, when it all comes back to me. I can remember the sights, the sounds, and the smell of it.

But most of all, I can remember the fear.

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