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Last Updated: Friday, 7 July 2006, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Tube travellers sombre but defiant
By Brian Wheeler
BBC News, Aldgate Station

Aldgate Tube station
In total, seven people died in the Aldgate bombing a year ago

They may have had little time to stop and chat as they hurried in to Aldgate Tube station on their way to work, but everyone I spoke to this morning said their thoughts were with the families of the victims of the bombings.

They spoke about their memories of 7 July last year, when on a bright sunny morning just like this one, 52 people were killed by suicide bombers, seven of them on the short stretch of Circle Line between Liverpool Street and Aldgate.

They spoke about the "sombre" mood in their offices and how people had pulled together in the aftermath of the attack - and about the importance of observing the two-minute silence at midday.

But more than that, they said, they wanted to get on with their lives.

"If you don't get on with your life, you have let them win," said John Hooke, a London Underground instructor who had been on duty this time last year.

It was a sentiment repeated time and again. The mood earlier on the underground, on my journey from Liverpool Street, had been calm and business-like.

But as 0850 BST approached, the time Shehzad Tanweer had detonated his home-made bomb in a tunnel a few hundred metres from where we were standing, things began to feel a little tense.

The platforms at Aldgate, unlike most in central London, are close to the surface and were bathed in diffused sunlight.

Carriage search

I watched from the staircase above, as three deserted trains were held in the platforms, while underground staff in fluorescent bibs searched their carriages. Police officers stood, feet apart, at intervals along the platforms.

It was hard not to think of what had happened at this precise moment 12 months ago.

I just feel so lucky. I walked away without a mark. Saying that just really brings it home what happened
Paul Gravestock

Then, after a few seconds, we heard three blasts on a whistle and the familiar, comforting sound of Tube doors sliding shut.

Outside, the streets were teeming with traffic and people, like any other day. On 7 July last year they had been utterly deserted, except for emergency vehicles.

But this morning, only the presence of City of London police officers, in their distinctive red braided caps and helmets, walking calmly up and down in pairs outside the Tube station or setting out crash barriers in the road around the entrance, suggested anything was out of the ordinary.

And the camera crews and reporters, of course, who at times seemed to outnumber the police.

Fifty metres from the station entrance, people were leaving flowers outside St Botolph's Church, ahead of a memorial service.

A few stopped to read a poem that had been pinned to the railings.

Moving poem

Paul Gravestock, a 35-year-old fund administrator in a pin-striped suit, dabbed his eyes with a paper tissue as he read it.

"It is very unsettling, I was on the train at Aldgate last year. I just feel so lucky. I walked away without a mark. Saying that just really brings it home what happened."

Aldgate Tube station
Despite their hurry, commuters' thoughts were still with the victims

He said he hoped "something positive could come out of it" - that we "could step back and take stock of what has happened and move forward together. This cannot be allowed to beat us.

"At the time I had the opportunity to relocate to another part of the country as a result of it.

"But I have decided that is not the right thing for me and my family. We have to stay here and stay together. They cannot win," said the father-of-two.

Medical secretary Heather Watts had also experienced a near miss, having been on a train five minutes before it exploded. She choked back a sob as she described her feelings.

"It is very sad, very sombre. I thought about not coming in, in case there was a repeat of it, but you just have to get on with it. I think of all the people who died.

"I just cannot believe how quickly it has come around again. I think the mood will be very sombre at work."

You sense the journey was even more difficult for those who did not normally use the underground.

'Completely traumatised'

Irina Popov, a 25-year-old investment manager who was in the City for a training day, said she had been "really, really scared" and had even moved to another carriage when she saw a young man fiddling with a rucksack.

"I was a little bit uneasy. I thought: 'OK, I'd better move.'"

She said her friend had been in a train behind one that was hit by a bomb on 7 July last year and "was just completely traumatised".

She said she found the police presence at Aldgate "reassuring" but had not expected it. "I thought something had happened."

She normally works on the 29th floor of Canary Wharf. "That's quite scary as well," she said, laughing.

London can be a scary place these days, she said. But, her friend added: "We can't let the bombers win."


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