London Bombings, July 7, 2005: A Day I’ll Never Forget

I’ll never forget July 7, 2005. It was the day, for London, England, that the world came temporarily crashing down.

I was 15 and I was on my first solo trip abroad. Two years prior, my family and I lived for 10 months in Cottenham village outside of Cambridge, England. My dad, a college professor, conducted his sabbatical research at Cambridge University while my three siblings and I attended school, and my mom helped support us in that. I made life long friends there, and leaving was tough. From the first day I landed in back America, I began saving up for a plane ticket back.

Flash forward two years, and there I was, ready to fly back to England to stay with my best friend and attend my former British school’s  prom to connect with old friends. I spent two weeks total in England, and celebrated my 16th birthday there on July 3. We had planned to go into London from Cambridge (about a 45 minute train ride) later that week, but because the way plans change, we decided to go the day after my birthday on July 4 instead. So we went, shopped in Harrods, saw Buckingham Palace and London Bridge, took pictures with the Beefeaters, met Owen Wilson at the Wedding Crashers premier in Leicester Square. We a blast—two old youngsters alone in a big city, walking around and goofing off like tourists. That night we headed back to Cambridge.

72 hours later, everything changed.

On the morning of July 7, we met a huge group of girlfriends at a bowling alley in Cambridge. We were just about to start a game when the score screens blinked and changed to the BBC breaking news station. London, the city we had just visited, was a chaotic, flaming, mess of medics, journalists, and people. The news reel flashed across the screen. In a series of coordinated suicide attacks targeting civilians during morning rush hour, terrorists bombed three London underground trains and a bus.

Details weren’t clear but as the day’s events unfolded, we learned the bombings were allegedly in response to Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war. The attacks happened between 8:50 and 10:00am, all four suicide bombers died. 52 people were killed and over 700 were injured.

Watching the screens, surrounded by my British friends in the bowling alley, my memory of September 11, 2001, surfaced. Ironically, I was in England on that day as well. And surrounded by these same friends, we were just 12-years-old, we watched a repeat news reel of the World Trade Center come crashing down in our German class. I had only been living in England for ten days. My family moved on September 1, 2001. I was still the new “American girl”—for most of them, I was the first American they had ever met. On September 11, as I walked home from school around 4pm (UK time) my mom ran outside the house. Stress and panic tugged the corner of her eyes. We made it to the TV just in time to see the second plane hit. The next day at school, and for weeks after, I felt an outpouring of sympathy and compassion from the British people. And in that bowling alley, a few months shy of the fourth anniversary of September 11,  there I was. There we were. Eyes glued to the screen. I could empathize with my friends’ fear.  And my dual-memory of 7/7 and 9/11, the feeling of mutual compassion for the other’s pain, has since informed how I view people.

Time wedged a distance between 7/7 and 9/11. Tube stations were rebuilt and I witnessed Ground Zero reconstruction from a window dozens of stories high, while visiting a friend at her magazine in the new World Trade Center building. But, despite the rebuilding, each nation still feels the painful discomfort that terrorism brought to its doorstep. And in my dual-memory of these experiences, I’m continuously reminded how important it is not to forget.

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