London Remembers Terror Attack Victims
J. Sean Curtin (Fellow, GLOCOM and Asia Times)
For Londoners, it is hard to believe that one week has passed since their city suffered its worst ever terror attack, which claimed the lives of 54 people, injured over 700 and shocked an entire nation. As a sign of respect and remembrance, on Thursday the whole country fell silent for two minutes at noon.
Across the nation from London to Loch Ness, people gathered in the streets in contemplative silence. Officer workers, school children, doctors, nurses, housewives, the old and the young stood shoulder to shoulder. Cars, trains and all other forms of transport came to a halt, and for two minutes the entire country was completely still, enveloped in a unifying hush.
As the silence was observed in every corner of the country, wreaths were laid at the bombing sites and many other commemorative services took place. Queen Elizabeth II stood in silence in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace, while Prime Minister Tony Blair observed the silence in the garden of No. 10 Downing Street, his official residence. Across Europe ceremonies were held as the continent also marked the occasion. In Paris, Bastille Day celebrations were temporarily halted and in Madrid, which also suffered a terrorist outrage in March 2004, thousands of people gathered in squares.
In London before the silence begun, the driver of bus that was bombed, George Psaradakis, read a defiant message of sympathy to the families of victims. He said, "As we stand together in silence, let us send a message to the terrorists, you will not defeat us and you will not break us."
London's Trafalgar Square formed the focal point of the day with a huge commemorative rally at noon which was followed later in the evening by a vigil. London's Major Ken Livingston was a central figure at both events, giving some moving and uplifting speeches that united the capital.
Just after the silence ended at noon, Livingston said, "This city has survived the past week because we didn't turn on each other, which is what the bombers wanted. We supported each other."
At the evening vigil, the Mayor said, "And out of this tragedy, let us redouble our efforts to build a better city for our children and our grandchildren and lift our hearts, rather than worry about who to blame or who to hate."
Livingston also spoke about the 2012 Olympics which London will host. He said, "In seven years' time, when the games begin, sitting at the front of the stadium, and watching the 200 teams that will come from every nation, will be those who were maimed but survived, and the relatives of those who died."
History has shown that out of every great evil, an even greater good always emerges. The unity and real sense of solidarity generated by remembering the victims of one week ago has strengthened community bonds and in a small way helped heal some of London's pain and sorrow.