In London, memories of a 7/7

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By Amit Roy in London
  • Published 7.07.08

London, July 7: London, Kabul and India were joined by tragedy today.

As details of the Afghanistan blast were trickling in, relatives and friends of the victims of 7/7were gathering at King’s Cross station for a memorial service on the third anniversary of the blasts on London’s transport system that killed 52 people and injured 700.

It is now clear that an age of innocence in Britain ended on July 7 three years ago. Nothing has or will ever be the same again, especially for British Muslims, after the actions of the four young UK-bred suicide bombers – Mohammad Sidique Khan, 30, Shehzad Tanweer, 22, Hasib Hussain, 18, and Jermaine Lindsay, 19.

It is almost certain they were puppets on a string manipulated by masterminds who have remained in the shadows, instigating others to do what they were not prepared to do themselves.

This morning, in the soft English rain, commuters stood shoulder to shoulder with grieving relatives and friends at King’s Cross.

An Indian, Raj Babbra, 31, was using the occasion to premiere a film he has made about his late girlfriend and “best friend”, business analyst Benedetta Ciaccia, 30.

“I have come here today to remember Benedetta and that is also why I made the film,” he explained. “I didn’t make it to help with my grieving process, but it has.”

The London mayor, Boris Johnson, laid a memorial card which read: “We honour the memory of those who died on 7/7 2005, we salute the courage of those who were injured and our thoughts and prayers are with all victims and their families.”

One of the victims was Shahara Islam, a 20-year-old Bangladeshi girl who grew up in Whitechapel, east London. “She was an Eastender, a Londoner and British, but above all a true Muslim and proud to be so,” said a statement at the time from her family.

Shahara appeared a perfect blend of east and west, loved smart clothes, and enjoyed her work as a cashier at the Co-operative Bank in Islington.

“She was always very polite and kind to the customers of the bank, me included,” one of her customers at the bank, Giuseppe Ferrara, said later.

On that fateful morning, Shahara had boarded the number 30 bus that was blown up by Hasib at 09.47am, almost an hour after the Tube bomb blasts. In the process, he killed 14 people, including himself, and injured more than 110.

Her father, Shamsul Islam, told a newspaper that his daughter “would have been filled with anger towards the bombers. She loved London and Britain.”

Among those present today were Graeme and Veronica Russell, whose 28-year-old son, Philip, was also killed on his way to work by the bomb triggered by Hasib. His parents were told of his death four days later on July 11 – his 29th birthday.

“Anybody who loses a child is severely affected,” Philip’s father said. “It doesn’t go away, the pain is just deadened.”

After the ceremony ended, three women arrived at the scene to stand in silent vigil for several minutes.

One of the women, who did not want to be named, said: “Do you think any thing has improved? I don’t. My son died on this day three years ago and I do not feel any safer today than when I found out about what had happened. We all still feel under threat – perhaps even more so.”

Survivor Jacqui Putnam, 57, said: “I return every year to lay flowers. It’s very important for me to be here. I don’t want to be anywhere else on the 7th. The other people here today have become friends since.”

Perhaps the most important point that needs to be made is those who have also suffered grievous loss include the parents, families and friends of Mohammad Sidique Khan, Shehzad Tanweer, Hasib Hussain, and Jermaine Lindsay. Their parents knew nothing about what their sons were planning.

There hasn’t been another similar suicide bombing since July 7, 2005, though apparently not for lack of trying.

Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis justly pride themselves on their family values. But parents now realise that they have to make much more of an effort to ensure their children are not lost.

As tearful families left King’s Cross in the rain, the Rev Kevin McGarahan, 58, who assisted with the rescue efforts three years ago, said: “It’s so important that we do not allow the terrorists to win.”

In some senses, he was echoing the Indian government’s message today from Delhi.