Today marks the tenth anniversary of the July 7 terrorist bombings in London in 2005, known as 7/7.
On the morning of Thursday, 7 July 2005, four Islamist men detonated four bombs – three in quick succession aboard London Underground trains across the city and, later, a fourth on a double-decker bus in Tavistock Square. As well as the four bombers, 52 civilians were killed and over 700 more were injured in the attacks, the United Kingdom’s worst terrorist incident since the 1988 Lockerbie bombing as well as the country’s first ever suicide attack.
I was in London that day and caught up in a very minor way with the unfolding events as I tried to get to Heathrow airport for a flight back to Amsterdam where I lived at the time. I recorded some thoughts about my experience on the train to the airport on the afternoon of that day. While my experience bears no relation at all to the horrors of the bombings and the people killed and injured, I think this 10-minute commentary contributes one individual perspective to the overall picture of what we call 7/7.
I wrote this in a blog post when I eventually arrived home that evening:
I’ve been in London over the past two days. Caught up in the chaos at Paddington station this lunchtime which, as I arrived there to catch the Heathrow Express, was evacuated because of a bomb threat. Police everywhere and hundreds of people rushing out of the station. But the massive inconvenience today resulting from my being indirectly caught up in the effects of the terrorist outrages pales into complete insignificance compared to the direct and awful effects of those outrages with more than 35 people dead and over 700 injured.
Just to put things into proper perspective.
[Addition, 10.15 am] Thinking about 7/7 after I published this post, I was suddenly reminded of another perspective I heard about last month – the role of communication during a tragedy such as 7/7 in a presentation made by Chris Webb, the Strategic Communication Lead for the emergency services on the ground, so to speak, on that fateful day.
Webb spoke at the FutureComms15 conference in London last month and took us through events on 7/7 from the communication perspective.
This was a time before Twitter existed and before Facebook had moved out of the American uni dorm rooms; it would be more than another year before YouTube was acquired by Google and began to really catch on. Social media in 2005 meant blogs, a nascent form of media that was already getting increasing attention.
So in a crisis, a tragedy, like 7/7 there was mostly what we call today the mainstream media and all the processes and procedures that will be familiar to anyone who was a communication practitioner in the 90s and early 00s and knew about crisis communication.
How different such a landscape would be today with social media as a key part of the media mix.
Watch Chris Webb’s complete presentation in this video.