Monday, July 10, 2006

Forewarned was not forearmed

I am holed up on the drizzly south coast of England. Wiped out and emotional, completely unable to face going back to London. I have taken the day off work because my body is telling me to stop. I have been running on adrenaline for weeks, just as I did directly after the bombings. I am going to learn from my mistakes, even if the government are not, and I am taking it easy today.

I really was hoping that forewarned was forearmed. I knew the anniversary was going to be tough but I thought this knowledge would help me get through the day. I wrote on here and on the Guardian site, the day before, how I wanted it to be a day of hope and celebration. I am afraid to say I failed miserably in that task.

I went to meet my fellow passengers in Tavistock Square for the 2 minutes silence. I chose to take the tube. I wanted to go through the tunnel that day and watch for where the wires running along the wall of the tunnel turn red. This marks the spot where the bomb exploded, the red wires are new and stand out from the grime.The carriage was empty apart from a woman who sat opposite me with 2 young children. They seemed oblivious to the significance of the date and the journey they were taking, as we passed through the tunnel they laughed and joked and it felt like a good way to remember.

I came out at Russell Square and the hope started to fade. As I walked through the tunnels and waited for the lift I thought about those who had taken this journey a year ago. The injured, the wounded, the dying and the dead. I came out of the lift to find a station full of police. In a daze I wandered through and came across the mound of flowers which had gathered that morning. I stood and stared and was overwhelmed by the senseless loss of human life. A police officer came up and comforted me. I have no idea how she knew me 'you're Holly', she said 'you're one of the survivors, are you ok?'. Again human kindness and sensitivity prevailed, again I had been helped by a stranger.

I found the others in Tavistock Square, someone had bought balloons. 26 white, helium filled, balloons, one for each of the people who didn't make it out of that tube a year ago. We held them through the silence. As I looked at the spot where the bus had been blown up, I started to shudder with pain. As the tears flowed I could feel the wakening of a new emotion, one which had never visited me before. I looked at the empty street and listened to the silent grief....and finally I thought 'you fucking bastards'.

In that moment the anger and the hatred emerged. Anger which had been previously directed solely at the government. I looked down that street and I hated those 4 men with all my heart.

Afterwards I went to a beautiful, multi faith, service in St Pancras church. I hadn't meant to go, I am not religious and I had felt uncomfortable about grieving for the dead, for people that I didn't know. But these new feelings that were welling up inside me told me that it was the right place to go. I wept throughout that service and this time I was crying for the dead and bereaved. The St Mary & St Pancras School Choir tipped us all over the edge. The innocence of their voices resounded through the church and there wasn't a dry eye in the house. As they sang their way through 'Lord of all hopefulness' a nearby church warder passed over a box of tissues and said to me 'take a handful'. As the piano hit the opening chords of 'Make me a channel for your peace' even the most hardened of hearts in the church had crumbled.

I emerged drained, exhausted and starving. I went back to the hotel bar which had been our base for the day and ordered a blue cheese and bacon burger with chips. Energy and comfort, it was perfect!

Then it was time for the evening memorial in Regent's Park. It was a beautiful setting, the rain held off, and we sat in the midst of blooming greenery. When we arrived there was an air of mingling and chatting. So many people involved in those dreadful events have met each other at some stage over the last year. There was hugging and kissing as we all embraced familiar faces who had shared this journey with us. Again, I managed to feel hope and strength, seeing and feeling all these wonderful bonds of closeness which have formed in the face of terror.

Then the service began. As The London Community Gospel Choir opened with 'Something Inside So Strong' I felt rather numb and detached from it all.I thought, perhaps, I had cried enough, there were no more tears left to shed. Then the readings by the family members began. How they did it I do not know. They were so incredibly brave and strong. I listened to Marie Fatayi-Williams reading 'All is Well', followed by Kathryn Glilkson with her own poem 'The Moon'. I began to feel overwhelmed by the waste of it all. Sitting in this tranquil spot, surrounded by over a thousand people who were all still struggling to come to terms with their losses and traumas. It was all so senseless, all so tragic and all such a bloody waste. When Saba Mozakka read 'You can't have departed' as a tribute to her mother I was finally overcome. Friends from the train hugged and comforted me from all sides as I shook uncontrollably and sobbed. I was crying for the dead, the bereaved and the survivors. I was crying for the tragic loss of human life, for the thousands who were suffering as the result of the actions of 4 angry young men and, I am ashamed to say, I was crying for myself.

The anniversary was a difficult day, but I think, for those I shared it with, it was a good day too. I witnessed people who have never let go finally giving in and succumbing to their grief. The outpouring of emotions was immense, but ultimately cathartic and healing. I have found my hatred and my anger at last (for the bombers rather than the government), and it is probably good that it has emerged. I had no idea that it was in there, but as it was, and as we kept saying to each other all day 'better out than in'.

I walked arm in arm with friends from that day to lay our flowers in the floral mosaic. As we all clambered off the podium we gathered in a circle and, weeping, encouraged each other to celebrate the fact that we were the lucky ones that we had 'made it'. As our little circle dispersed, the tears continued to flow, I glanced across at the little gathering of power and exclaimed 'David Cameron is wearing fake tan!' Our tears turned to laughter as we saw his orange face glowing from the mass of dark suited men. 'You are naughty Holly' someone said 'you always make us laugh when we should be crying'.