Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the 7/7 bombs in London in which 52 people died. At the time I was living in Newham, a very multi-cultural part of East London, and working in a neighbouring borough. Geographically we were all a long way from the carnage in central London, but humanly we were anything but.
The bombers undoubtedly expected to create an atmosphere of desperation, fear and panic, but this did not happen. Yes, there was the chilling realisation that we were no longer dealing with bombs detonated from a safe distance: now we faced suicide bombers, uncaring of their own lives and safety; people we couldn't watch out for, in the same way we could watch out for an abandoned bag or bulky item in a bin. But even so, life had to continue. The day after the attack I had to travel into central London: the trains were already running normally, passengers sitting or standing as calmly as ever, reading, chatting, some even sleeping. Maybe some were warier, more watchful, but this wasn't obvious.
And so, a few years before the resurrection of the WWII Keep Calm posters, we simply did what the posters said - we kept calm and carried on.
We also kept close. In the carnage ordinary heroes sprang into action, their immediate response being to help others rather than simply saving themselves. In Newham and other areas with a large Muslim population we prayed and stayed side by side, rejecting kneejerk disunity in favour of solidarity. Death and destruction was not the only narrative about 7/7, and the commemorative programmes have reminded us of that, alongside the grief and raw pain of those who had been injured or bereaved. In the words of Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, Londoners will not be divided by this cowardly attack. They will stand together in solidarity alongside those who have been injured and those who have been bereaved and that is why I'm proud to be the mayor of that city.
Yesterday a picture of the final words of Livingstone's powerful, defiant speech was shared by many on Facebook. They're worth re-reading and remembering, in the world in which we now live.