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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 August 2005, 09:46 GMT 10:46 UK
The world on a train
Composite picture of victims

Nine years ago, novelist Geoff Ryman wrote a pioneering online novel, 253. It told a tale of the relationships between people who happened to be on a Tube train at the same time. Now, inspired by the varied lives of those who died on 7 July, Ryman offers his thoughts and tribute.

The most important thing about these people is not how they died but how they lived. All of them were hard-working, decent and loving. That seems to be what most of us are. Goodness is ordinary. Which is why it so often goes unreported.

How unexpected and individual we all are. In these life stories, you will meet a Caribbean singing sensation. You'll learn that the head of marketing for the Girl Guides was promoting a new rose named in honour of the Brownies. How did a Vietnamese-American come to have a Japanese surname?

We live in a secular society, but religion still seems to be a major part of many people's lives. Here you will read about a Baptist church deacon, a student of divinity who went on to be a successful businesswoman, and a talented musician whose uncle is a preacher.

Farewell kiss

So many of households are multi-faith - Jewish and Christian, or mingled Methodist and Hindu. Anthony Fatayi-Williams was the beloved son of a Catholic mother and Muslim father.

There are so many love stories here
The family remains central to our lives. Carrie Taylor and her mother gave each other a farewell kiss every morning on the concourse of Liverpool Street station. Susan Levy shared her daily commute with her 17-year-old son. Arthur Frederick had just returned from Grenada where he helped rebuild his elderly parents' home damaged by Hurricane Ivan. Anna Brandt's daughter had only arrived from Poland on the day of the explosions. Anna was identified from a DNA sample given by her brother. Of course, there are all those families who travelled from Mauritius, Poland, Israel, France or East Peckham to search for missing relatives.

There are so many love stories here. "He was my world," says Stephanie Reid of her fiancée David Foulkes. "As soon as we met, we knew that was it." Samantha Badham and Lee Harris met as teenagers. They were only travelling together that morning because of plans to celebrate their 14th anniversary. Lee Baisden, who worked for the fire service, had just moved in with his boyfriend. Michael Matsushita fell in love with an English girl while working in Cambodia. Benedetta Ciaccia was busy planning her wedding in Rome to her British Muslim fiancé.

We all know London's source of strength is its diversity. In the borough of Lambeth, 132 languages are spoken. But it's not only London that is becoming multi-cultural. So is the world as a whole. Here you will find an Asian-Australian, a Chinese-Mauritian, a Tunisian from France, an Irishwoman from New Zealand and a Grenadian from Montserrat.

One of the things evil cannot face contemplating is variety
Arts, music and sport lighten our lives. Christian Small was a dedicated athlete. Shelley Mather had a passion for indoor cricket. Monika Suchocka had just joined a choir. A talented artist, Marie Hartley was going to Islington to find a new illustrator for the studio where she worked.

Everywhere there is war. A young Afghan refugee had already lost members of his family to conflict. Two people who were refugees from Vietnam. One family escaped violence in Northern Ireland. An Israeli woman had left Israel to avoid the suicide bombers there. Helen Jones grew up near Lockerbie, where the Pan Am jet exploded. She grew up to be a consultant who took time to work with Glasgow's homeless.

Unexpected lives

So many of these people actively worked to help end injustice. The journalist and picture researcher Miriam Hyman furthered Israeli-Palestinian understanding. Colin Morley is described as an advertising genius who used his talents to build more ethical businesses. Fiona Stevenson took time off from her legal career to do volunteer work in Belize. Giles Hart posthumously received an honour from Poland for his work with Solidarity. Gladys Wundowa, Ojara Ikeagwu and Behnaz Mozakka all helped with social services or health care.

I don't believe there are evil people or evil countries, but there are undoubtedly evil thoughts and deeds. They come when we are tired, lazy, threatened or angry - rather like the shooting of that innocent Brazilian man. Everybody has a measure of right on their side and a measure of wrong.

The philosopher Hannah Arendt concluded that evil lay in the refusal to think. One of the things evil cannot face contemplating is variety. It prefers monolithic simplicity. Reality outstrips simplicity through a constant flowering of unexpected lives. Evil thoughts and deeds cannot prevail against it.

Thank you for your comments.

I dare ask any of us to write such a wonderful tribute using so few words. It places the good ordinariness of the good citizens we lost on July 7 against the mindset of those that seek oblivion. It is a measure of the true London that I know. As an 'outsider' born in Ireland, I am always amazed that no matter where I travel to both long and short term, there is always one thing that I miss and that's the diversity of London.
Noel Q. London, UK

This is a beautiful method of personalising the victims from July 7th. Too often in tragedies we deal with numbers and statistics, forgetting that the people who die have as much of an individual story as I do. This story should be read by everyone as a lesson of how terrorism is a personal war as well as a global one.
Nicola, Italy

Beautifully expressed, and a moving tribute to all those wonderful people. Its so easy to forget that people are just more than a face... life is so precious; we are all so unique!
Paul Casburn, London, UK

Often when reading the short newspaper biographies of people killed in terrorist bombings, I am moved to think "why is it that the special people are the ones who get killed?". The truth is that everyone is special.
Rafi, Israel

Most of the responses posted so far to what appears to me to be an advertisement for a book, have to be the worst lot of saccharine and pointless political correctness that I have seen yet.
Stine, London

Having read many of the stories of the lives of the victims it is clear that those who will suffer most are the people they had not yet met in life. For those who were 'only injured' may they take some consolation from knowing they were in the company of people who gave so much every day and on that day gave all they had. Society needs them to be remembered with love.
Michael Adams, UK

This is a moving and beautifully well-judged tribute to the people who died - well done BBC Online.
Chandra, London

I think the story is sentimental nonsense that actually trivialises the deaths of people caught in the bombings. It reads as an attempt to soften people's justifiable anger at the terrorist attacks - such soft focus pieces will not achieve the Government's aim of deflating public anger, and the BBC should not participate in propaganda. A more useful theme for your journalists to explore may be, "Is it apathy or anger motivating the 40% of people who do not vote in British general elections?"

It's a great story, it made me cry, and I'm emailing it to all my friends, the ones with open minds and the ones with closed ones, in hope that they will read and see. Thanks
Patrica Landsperger, USA

The piece is well written but sentimental, we are at war whether we like or not, and its a sad fact of life that in war time innocent people die sometimes savage and meaningless deaths. I vehemently disagree with the last comment that there aren't any evil people, people aren't born evil but become evil through circumstances. Only people infested with evil could deliberately strap bombs to themselves and then knowingly activate those bombs to kill others. It was a brutal and senseless end to their own lives and of the lives of those around them on that fateful tube and bus journey.
Phillippa, England

Mr Ryman has put forth an insightful human connection to lives - not just those lost to terror, but to all of us who struggle to come to terms with our swirling-about cultures. Indeed, we sometimes need to be reminded that each of us is a human being. All else represent the "flavors" we bring to this world.
Suzanne Prentice, United States

That was really beautiful. It just reminds us that we are all so unique yet alike at the same time. It also made me think how little we know of each other and how we only see faces, but we can't see people's wonderful souls.
Deb, Mexican-American in Australia

Indeed, the key issue is variety. In his treatise on Creation in the Summa Against the Gentiles, the medieval philosopher Thomas Aquinas suggested that the plenitude of characters, talents and achievements amongst humanity, both for better and also for worse, directly reflected the infinite range of God's being. Following Thomas Aquinas, the Italian philosopher Dante concluded in his treatise On Monarchy that it was the purpose of the earthly city to embody this plenitude in all its often problematic variety and with all the tensions and conflicts it produces. This, then, forms the often forgotten basis of western urban civilization, and this ideal, only now, begins to be fully realized in the great cities that treasure and celebrate that very variety--be it my own city Toronto, or New York or, of course, London.
Robert Jan van Pelt, Canada

This beautifully written piece just demonstrates how a group of people can affect, and thus be missed by more people than just family and friends - they all had so much to offer to the world, not just London or the UK. It probably won't be read by the people who it would benefit most, as their minds are closed, but for everyone else it is a good reminder that these people were much, much more than statistics.
Chris, England

Beautifully written, and very, very true. Thank you.
Ben Andrews, UK

That was the most beautiful and positive thing I have read about this whole tragedy and I completely agree, there are no evil people or evil countries there are just some very misguided people out there. I choose to be influenced by the lives of the people that were killed and not become an angry person influenced by the bombers.
serena askew, uk

This diversity point is overplayed- I've nothing against diversity, but phrases such as 'London's strength is its diversity' are meaningless. London was less diverse in WW2, yet that was when it was at its most resolute ever. The people of Nagasaki and Hiroshima were almost all Japanese, yet they had to be extraordinarily tough to rebuild their cities and get on with their lives. Even in the afternoon of the Nagasaki bomb, office workers returned home and started the clear-up. After all, what else was there to do? The occupants of the buses and tubes may all have been multi-ethnic, benevolent souls with their own unique life stories, but it is leaders and policymakers with more imagination to deal with this problem than the current bunch of hardliners that will solve this problem, not a city full of diverse civilians.
Julian, UK

A beautiful way to pay tribute to the people who lost their lives that day. As the writer says, it's more important how they lived - how we all live. This hopefully encourages us all to continue pursuing good in our everyday lives.
Silva Paunonen, Finland & USA

An inspiring piece. The generosity of spirit, cultural diversity and religious tolerance exemplified here is exactly what was under attack on 7th and 21st July - and exactly what needs to be protected, if our society is to continue in any meaningful shape or form. As the child of a 'mixed marriage' (Dutch/English), born in Malaysia and now living in London with a South African partner, I have always believed that variety was the spice of life. The wonderful thing about this city is that almost everyone you meet is originally from elsewhere, and yet we are all Londoners - perhaps all the more so, after these traumatic events.
Christina Koning, England

That was a decent article - we should do more to emphasise diversity. Stop using blanket labels for different ethnic groups - we're all individuals. I was born in Ireland, but have spent half my life here - I'll always be Irish, but I guess I'm also English - although with a very small 'e' ;)
Graeme Mulvaney, UK

What a beautiful and moving drawing together of those threads that, despite our glorious diversity, hold all of us together - family, generosity, hope, and most common and yet powerful of all, love. When ordinary people in this world are so extraordinary, we should not be afraid.
Helen hopper, England

A truly remarkable view of how society is today and the diversity which fuels it. Let each of us send this story to as many friends as possible. It will be a legacy that the victims have left. It shows us all that the innocent must be remembered for the good they did. Let us not give energy to evil by keeping only the names of the bad guys in the papers!
sheila pollock, US

I lost a dear friend in one of the September 11th hijackings into the World Trade Center, I found this article beautiful and encouraging. No ideology that upholds murder and mayhem can defeat the desire to love and help one another that most people possess. This is a lovely tribute to the lives of those who died.
Diane, USA

When so much is being said about the bombings its easy to get lost in the noise, I think this article makes you really face up to the effect of violence.
Peter, London, UK

I'm so glad that someone has been able to capture what is the true essence of July 7th...the people who were involved and always will be.
Rob, Ringwood

I like the article except for the end. There are evil people. Evil comes from the heart of a person who wants only what he wants. Power, dominance, greed, hate, envy. All of these things come from the heart of a person. Hate and a love of control are the ones that plague humans the most. We want to control all that is around us - earth, animals, people. All must bend to our wills. Pride and arrogance come from this rabid will to dominate. We are right because we know better than anyone else. We are the supreme end and beginning of our view of the world and all that live in it. God is the only things that can drive out this kind of pride. His love is what must take the place of inhuman selfishness and put in it's place the only virtue that will same the world, that being, unconditional charity.
B. Rickman, Shelton CT, USA

This was lovely, very moving and beautifully written. A fitting tribute to those who died and the family and friends they leave behind.
Karen, Irish, living in UK

I think this is such a refreshing way to consider the bombings, and the media as a whole should take note. I hope that any would be bombers currently harbouring evil thoughts read this and realise what they can never defeat. This may help prevent some of the future needless and contemptible suffering and terror we have witnessed. Nothing can justify what they have done.
Steve, Nottingham, UK

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