Tavistock Square – work, memories, peace and hope

Working in Tavistock Square in London I have been challenged by the fact that the world passes by the memorial to the fifteen who died in the bus bombing of 7/7/2005. I appreciate that life has to carry on, but it sparks reflection on the nature of such tragedies, especially when similar things happen daily around the world. Below is a personal reflection:

Sat at my desk in Tavistock Square sifting emails, as per the daily routine, a deep explosive sound and the rattling of recently opened windows turns my panicked attention to the world outside. The instant reaction is to think of a motor accident, but a number of things indicate something different. There is an eerie silence broken only by the pattering of dust and debris against the window. No car horns or agitated voices, just a stunned silence.
Looking out of the window I can see only the gardens in the Square in their summer colours, a vision of beauty and tranquillity, but an urgent and inquisitive look out of the office doors reveals something quite different – utter carnage. Mangled vehicles, including a bus without a roof, scattered across the roads amongst piles of debris. Some figures are beginning to move tentatively amongst it all, some don’t.
Shock and disbelief allow no space for the truth of what has happened.
Focus is given by six people who we take into our office, clothes and limbs lacerated and in much pain, but with no clearer idea of what has taken place. We do what we can and get one in a car to the hospital. A colleague with nursing experience goes to offer her assistance. We do not see her again for nine hours, during which the rest of us are confined to the office.
The day passes in a surreal way. The horrors of what has happened are with us as our visitors gradually unravel accounts of their experience, but the view remains of summer gardens. An eerily unusual silence surrounds and I am drawn to the door to glance at the unspeakable horrors which are just thirty feet away simply to prove it is there.
In between cups of tea and reassuring conversations it is the internet news channels that draw our attention – the slow, but only way of gathering what is going on. Cocooned, by police instruction, within familiar surrounds the reality of death and destruction comes quietly, in contrast to the bomb that has been its cause.

In time a memorial is fastened to the railings on Woburn Place, discreet but necessary. When the mental images of torn metal and bodies surface amid the ordinary of ongoing existence the instinct is to shut them away, but I know that it is right to remember. It seems wrong, somehow, that buses and people now pass the memorial without often a glance. I try to put it all in perspective. Fifteen lives are precious and personal tragedy amongst family and friends is multiplied, yet the scale of tragedy is eclipsed in too many other places. Elsewhere in Tavistock Square I often pass by a tree with a simple plaque that is memorial to the horrors of Hiroshima. Many years ago and many thousands of miles away, but many more lives lost in violence and demanding our memory in order that a momentum for peace might be maintained. I am glad to be reminded. There is also a 
large rough slab of stone that serves as memorial to conscientious objectors – “to all those who have established and maintain the right to refuse to kill – their foresight and courage give us hope”. I am challenged that my reaction to the utter violence witnessed on the street corner must not be further violence, but I must remember and do something to overcome it.