London’s Day of Terror
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JAMES MATES: Ever since Sept. 11, we were told this day was inevitable. Today, all the alerts, the scares, the predictions came a quite appalling reality.
Without warning, without provocation, four blasts ripped through London’s transport system, at a time of the morning when they knew the buses and trains would be full almost beyond capacity.
Ten to 9 in the morning a bomb ripped through a train between Liverpool Street and Aldgate. Above ground, no one is sure if this is an attack or an accident. There are reports of a crash. Another suggests power surges were to blame. Those on the train knew exactly what it was.
MAN: You knew it was a bomb straightaway, so…it started up a panic, really.
MAN: People wanted to get to the back of the train away from the danger area, but there was nowhere for them to go. Then they took us off the train and made us walk all the way back past it all, dead bodies on the tracks, the train blown open.
JAMES MATES: The way the emergency services were responding soon told Londoners that this was no ordinary accident. Soon after half past 9:00, the second explosion, this time at West London’s Edgeway Road. The bomb was on one tube train, two others were caught up in the blast.
MAN: It just put out Edgeway Road. And next thing I know there’s a large flash of light and I felt a burning sensation on my hands, put my hands up to my face. I was on the floor by that point.
JAMES MATES: Just seven minutes later, bomb number three again deep underground between King’s Cross and Russell Square stations; this was to be the deadliest attack of them all. One carriage completely wrecked.
MAN: There was a large bang. People were physically ejected out of the chair. It was flashes of lights on the side of the tube carriage, smoke immediately billowed into the carriage, it filled it. People started to scream because there was a burning smell, and everyone, to cut a long story short, thought they were going to die. People started saying prayers, praying to God, panicking, breaking the carriage windows with their bare hands, anything to get oxygen to the carriage, because more people tried, the more distressed they became.
MAN: I saw this silver lines across my face — I believe was the glass — and this yellow flash, and then the motor was being twisted and thrown to the ground. I have no idea what happened. There was a rushing sound, and it was just total darkness. Some light came into our carriage and there was a lot of panic, a lot of screams.
We had to walk back past all the carnage, and where the explosion happened. It burned some people out and the damaged carriage was several feet further out where the train had stopped. There were was one body under some of the metal sheet, and it wasn’t moving, he had had trousers blown off. There’s a couple of others who had their clothes stripped from them as well but just about moving on the track. And then in the carriages, there’s people covered in blood, and people trying to hold their heads and give them some help.
JAMES MATES: If anyone now doubted what was we were seeing was a coordinated series of terror attacks, confirmation came just 10 minutes later. A number 10 bus passing through Tavistock Square was torn apart by a bomb placed near the back on the upper deck; it was full of people recently evacuated from Russell Square Tube Station. These amateur pictures show just the empty seats open to the sky.
SPOKESPERSON: I can see in front of me a red double-decker bus, the front half of which has been totally blown away. There are paramedics of the scene; there are members of the public, there are police all over; they’re trying to tend to the walking wounded. Bus seats have been thrown out of the bus and onto the street. There are cars all around the bus which have all been damaged.
JAMES MATES: Other buses were quickly commandeered by emergency services to ferry the injured to hospital. The police had rehearsed just this sort of scenario in the heart of the capital. They were prepared and their response showed that. The catalog of horrific injuries speaks of dozens of lives ruined, bodies crippled.
RUSSELL SMITH, London Ambulance Service: We have treated 45 patients with serious or critical injuries, including burns, amputations, chest and blast injuries and fractured limbs. We have also treated approximately 300 patients with minor injuries, including lacerations, smoke inhalation, shock, cuts and bruises.
JAMES MATES: From the air, the near total paralysis of a capital city was quite clearly visible. The tube system completely shut down all day, most of the trains in and out of London cancelled. Buses that had filled the streets in this morning’s rush hour now confined to their garages.
On the motor way, it was so bad people took to the hard shoulder and walked. This would not be unique to London. Any modern city could be brought to a standstill through attacks like these. But it shows what the politicians are fighting again when they promise not to allow the bombers to destroy our way of life.
TONY BLAIR: It’s important, however, that those engaged in terrorism realize that our determination to defend our values and our way of life is greater than their determination to cause death and destruction to innocent people in a desire to impose extremism on the world.
Whatever they do, it is our determination that they will never succeed in destroying what we hold dear in this country and in other civilized nations throughout the world. Thank you.
JAMES MATES: Hard to believe now, but this time yesterday there could hardly have been a better feeling than to be a citizen of the nation’s capital.
SPOKESPERSON: Can we drift back, please, unless you want to speak to police.
JAMES MATES: The flag flying at half mast at Buckingham Palace was itself testament to the way that one of the happiest days in London’s history has given way to one of the darkest.
MARGARET WARNER: By late afternoon, the prime minister had returned to London. He made these comments at his official residence, Ten Downing Street.
TONY BLAIR: This has been a most terrible and tragic atrocity that has cost many innocent lives. I just attended a meeting of the Governance Emergency Committee, received a full report from the ministers and officials responsible. There will be announcements made in respect of the various services; in particular, we hope the underground, insofar as is possible, and rail and bus services are up and running as swiftly as possible.
I would like again to express my profound condolences to the families of the victims and to those who are casualties of this terrorist act. I would also like to thank the emergency services that have been magnificent today in every respect.
There will, of course, now be the most intense police and security service action to make sure that we bring those responsible to justice. I would also pay tribute to stoicism and resilience of the people of London who have responded in a way typical of them. In addition, I welcome the statement that’s been put out by the Muslim Council of Great Britain. We know that these people act in the name of Islam but we also know that the vast and overwhelming majority of Muslims here and abroad are decent and law-abiding citizens who abhor this act of terrorism every bit as much as we do.
It is through terrorism that the people that have committed this terrible act express their values. And it’s right at this moment that we demonstrate ours. I think we all know what they’re trying to do. They’re trying to use the slaughter of innocent people to cow us, to frighten us out of doing the things that we want to do, of trying to stop us going about our business as normal as we’re entitled to do. And they should not and they must not succeed.
When they try to intimidate us, we will not be intimidated. When they seek to change our country or our way of life by these methods, we will not be changed. When they try to divide our people or weaken our resolve, we will not be divided and our resolve will hold firm. We will show, by our spirit and dignity, and by a quiet but true strength that there is in the British people, that our values will long outlast theirs. The purpose of terrorism is just that; it is to terrorize people, and we will not be terrorized.
I’d like once again to express my sympathy and my sorrow for those families who will be grieving so unexpectedly and tragically tonight. This is a very sad day for the British people but we will hold true to the British way of life.