A decade on, Londoners shrug off terror attacks | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 06.07.2015
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A decade on, Londoners shrug off terror attacks

On the morning of July 7 2005, Londoners woke up in a state of dreamlike disbelief. The day before, Britain had secured the 2012 Olympic Games. By late morning a grim reality had set in as Mike Power reports from London.

Ten years ago, Alex Marshall, then a 34-year-old chef, cycled to work at Woburn Conference Centre on Tavistock Square, an elegant central London address that was once home to Charles Dickens. As he began preparing food, news began filtering through of a major electrical problem on the Underground. His boss told him to stop work, as few customers were expected.

It soon emerged that the reported power surges were actually suicide bombers. Just before 10 a.m., another explosion came. This time, it was closer, and above ground. "I was stood outside taking a break in the stairwell about 20 meters away when the blast came over my head," says Marshall.

Eighteen-year-old Hasib Husain of Leeds had killed himself and 13 passengers, blowing the top of the bus clean off.

blown up bus copyright: EPA/Peter Macdiarmid

London refused to be cowed by the attacks

Gruesome scenes

"I went up and I could see the front of the British Medical Association, which is made of beautiful Portland sandstone. There were body bits all over it," says Marshall.
The chef knew first aid and sprinted to the kitchens and grabbed hundreds of pairs of surgical gloves, used for handling food, and tea-towels for tourniquets. He fetched tables to use as makeshift stretchers from his workplace, and ran between the wounded, helping doctors.

In the following year, Marshall says he barely slept, watching news obsessively. Today, he still works in Tavistock Square. "I've never wanted to leave London, as that would make me a victim, and I don't want to be that," he says.

"If you stop doing what you're doing, [the terrorists] got what they wanted," says Marshall. "It's better to say: 'We're not scared, you're not going to change us. We're just going to carry on.'"

Tough talk

In contrast, political rhetoric on domestic extremism is hardening. Prime Minister David Cameron told the National Security Council in May: "For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: 'So long as you obey the law we will leave you alone.' It's often meant we have stood neutral between different values. And that's helped foster a narrative of extremism and grievance. This government will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach," he said.

The UK is already one of the world's most surveilled states, with a 2013 report by the British Security Industry Authority estimating at least 5 million cameras nationwide.

policemen copyright:: David Wimsett

They're watching you

Gus Hosein of Privacy International insists that increased monitoring does not result in greater safety. "Almost every terrorist attack that governments have been using as a political justification for more powers involved individuals who … were actually under surveillance already," he says.

Stronger surveillance

Constable John Corr, who attended the blast at Russell Square tube station, says he feels London has changed after the attacks - for the better - and that greater surveillance is a price worth paying.

"People do take note of who's around them more, and sometimes you do see some poor guy get on the Tube with a rucksack, and everyone's weighing him up… But people do look out for each other a bit more more now."

Corr believes less privacy is a small price to pay for security. "I know people say: 'Well i don't want my emails read,' and things like that. People could read anything they like of mine. And if that helps keep even just one more person safe, that's worth it to me. I don't want to witness something like 7/7 again."

Positive action

Sajda Mughal was born in Kenya after her parents fled Idi Amin’s regime in Uganda when she was a year old. The family moved to north London shortly afterwards.
She was aged 22 when she took the Piccadilly line train where 19-year-old Germaine Lindsey killed 26 passengers, and himself. She survived, and in the following years, dedicated her career to saving young Muslim men and women from online radicalization with her charity, the JAN Trust. Mughal is herself a Muslim and is critical of media representations of Islam post 7/7.

"Some media outlets are fuelling Islamophobia. One tabloid newspaper recently reported, 'Horror as Muslim convert beheads woman in garden' but it then emerged that the accused was a schizophrenic," she told DW by email.

In 2011, after a survey revealed a lack of basic IT skills among 350 Muslim mothers, Mughal developed the world’s only programme enabling mothers to tackle online radicalization - the Web Guardians programme.

men on a bench photo: PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images

One major concern is the radicalization of Muslims

"It takes a mother on a journey, educating her with the practical skills to get online, exposing her to the issue of online radicalization and equipping her with the ability to channel their child’s grievances in a positive manner," she says. "We have had great success with our programme with mothers thanking us in 'saving' their children. Mothers from one area of the UK said: "You have now saved our families, please go out there and save more!"

With terror attacks such as those on June 26 in Sousse, Tunisia, leaving 30 Britons among the 38 dead, it is inevitable that politicians feel the need to show decisive action to reassure a frightened public. But some survivors of the 7/7 attacks - those most entitled to feel fear and anger - show a more restrained response.

George Roskilly was working as property manager in July 2005. A chance decision took him to within 1.5 meters of the explosion on the same, packed Piccadilly line as Sajda Mughal. "I thought we'd hit a train at first. It was suddenly pitch-black. There was a lot of crying, screaming, moaning and praying. I thought: 'No driver. Smoke pouring in. This is it. This is where it all ends for you, George,'" he says.

He sat still, waiting. Then a voice came through the tannoy, directing the passengers out along the train lines. "The euphoria, when I realised I might make it … my spirit lifted," says Roskilly.

Roskilly, now 72, recalls the scenes that greeted him as he waited in the station after making his way through the tunnels and up into the street safely.

Survivors' guilt

"The doors of the lift opened, and a stretcher came out. There was something on it, black, completely black. You couldn't tell what it was, male or female, but it was a body, and it had a drip in it. No legs, from the knees down. Then the doors opened again and another came out, without legs, and then another, this one with no feet. They just put the stretchers down next to me. I thought: 'This is crazy, I've had enough.' And I asked a policeman if I could go."

For years, Roskilly says he was tormented by guilt at having survived. "I was 62 then, and there were all these people, all younger than me, who took the blast. Just starting out in life and they got blown to bits. I wondered why I escaped and they didn't. I thought, 'This can't be right.'"

damaged underground train

Some of those who lived still ask why they survived

For over a year he felt fine, he says, but one day visiting his grandchildren one of them began crying, the sound triggered long-suppressed memories, and he suffered a breakdown. "There was a lot of crying there, in the tunnel, for the first few minutes," he says, his voice strained even now.

With counselling over the next year, Roskilly addressed the trauma he had suffered. Today, he insists that some good has come out of London's worst-ever terror attack.
"In London, the etiquette is not to talk or look at anyone on the Tube. You don't interact. But I've made friends for life thanks to that day. I'd never have known these people otherwise. All types. All gods. Or none. There was so many more positive things came out of that unbelievable day than negatives for me," he says. "And in the end, we won. Because we didn't alter our lives, or our minds, because of these terrorists. We won."

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