Monday, January 09, 2006

6 months on

The Wounded Angel by Emily Young
It was a cold damp and gloomy day in London yesterday. It was 6 months after the bombings on 7th July, a day when so many lives were taken away and others were shattered.

Half a year, is it really? When I sit on the tube and it breaks suddenly, loudly, without warning, it feels like 6 minutes ago. When I am drinking and laughing with my fellow passengers, I struggle to remember my life before, it could be 6 years.

Kings Cross United were meeting to mark this day together on the platform at Kings Cross. Five members had volunteered to read the service between them. I was reading the names of those that lost their lives in the tunnel that day. Yesterday morning I felt uneasy. I was filled with uncertainty about what we were doing. I felt I needed to move on and this ceremony felt as if it was dragging it all up again. I had volunteered to read the names, I didn't know these people, who was I to remember them when so many that loved them were struggling with the emptiness.

For a moment I had almost decided not to go. I would just go and meet them in the pub afterwards. They would understand, someone else would read the names. Then I thought of all my fellow passengers, the police, the London Underground staff, the driver, I thought of my friends, how we had supported each other through these last 6 months, and I wanted to be with them, I didn't want to let them down.

We met upstairs in Kings Cross, trying to look discreet. There were about 30 of us in all, carrying flowers and wreaths which we were trying to hide. We hoped we had managed to put the press off the scent. We wanted to remember in private, this was for us.

Steve and Gerard (the British Transport police who rescued us) were with us, they were not on duty, but they couldn't help shepherding and protecting us, it was reassuring to have them there, always on duty.

The atmosphere was somber, but as usual we manage to laugh and joke and fight of the nerves, we all knew it was going to be difficult, emotional. For some it would be the first time they had been back here. As we descended the escalator, fighting through the football fans we all silenced. The station staff were magnificent. They cordoned off a small area for us at the end of the platform, by the mouth of the tunnel where so many of us had been trapped. When we arrived at this spot there was an almost simultaneous outpouring of grief. We wept, we held each other, we were together, we remembered.

The station must have been crowded, trains pulled in and out, apparently a tube driver stepped out of his carriage for a moment to reflect with us. I was oblivious to everything except our little group, the words, the tears and the tunnel. We held hands, we were shaking. The list of names spilled out of my mouth, I could hear myself, I didn't stumble, I felt as if I was standing behind myself watching. My knees were shaking, I took deep breaths to stave off the tears. At the end of the ceremony we left the platform slowly, I paused for a moment and stared deep into the darkness of the tunnel. Silently Steve put his arm around me and lead me away, he had guided me from this place once before, but we were strangers then.

Afterwards I felt drained, exhausted, emotional, but proud, proud of us all. I had a cigarette, then many more, damn and blast, but I had to.

We were meeting in the pub later, most of the group went after the service. I went home for an hour, I just needed a moment. I lay on the sofa, watched super-nanny and ate Marks & Spencers microwave lasagne. Refreshed I went to meet them all in the pub. Old friends, new faces, all laughing and happy, united with our common bond. 'Some marriages are based on less than this' someone once joked, and it's true, We feel like we have known each other for ever.

More congratulations to Steve on his MBE. He looked bashful and uncomfortable. " I was just doing my job' he said. 'I wish I could take Kings Cross United with me, you are the real heroes, I'll tell the Queen about you'.

We raised our glasses, we are not heroes, we were just on a tube together, now we are friends, but not heroes, it could have been anyone, it could have been you.