My nephew and I had already chosen Thursday as our "kick back" day to hang around Queensway in Bayswater, have lunch at The Orangery at Kensington Palace and relax from the rest of the week; we'd hit the ground running the previous Saturday. We might have been on the Tube that morning, otherwise.
I remember, with the news so fresh, walking toward Kensington Gardens, seeing (and hearing) a helicopter flying in at low altitude and landing at the palace. Arriving near where it had landed, we saw police officers around the perimeter of the field, calmly chatting over the fence with locals and tourists. No warnings, no threats, just chatting. So different from how it would be at home.I remember being gently turned away at the gate to the Kensington Palace grounds, " . . . because of, you know, the situation," as the police officer told us. We had thought The Orangery might still be open for lunch.
I remember the long lines of people waiting to use public telephones, and finally finding one so my nephew could call his parents in California. It was still the middle of the night there, so they learned about events from us. "There have been some bombings on the Underground, but we are safe," we told them.
I remember the sign at the Bayswater station: "Until further notice- No Train Service To All Underground Stations. All buses in central London are not running as well." I took a photo of it. Later in the day as buses were allowed to run, you couldn't get on one for the crowds that had been stranded by the Tube shutdown.
Then there were the faces of people whose lives had been turned upside-down in a few moments. "How will I get home tonight? Will my shop be open tomorrow? Will people quit coming to London because of this?" And I remember the kindness of Londoners who apologized to me for my holiday being disrupted- when I would be able to go home in a couple of days, they would have to keep going through the cleanup and recovery process.
I remember the strange emptiness of the Central Line train on Friday, being sequestered in the crypt of St. Paul's Cathedral while the bomb squad investigated a suspicious package outside, of places we'd planned to visit being closed because staff couldn't make their way in to work that day.
I remember all of these things and more, but most of all, I remember the resolve of London and her citizens to take one step, then another- and another, toward recovery, toward the future. In a single day London remembered her proud history of defying attacks by evil men and began picking up the pieces to put life back together.
I got to fly home on Saturday following, but each year, for one day, I am once again a Londoner.