7/7: Five years on

July 7, 2010

Today, 7th July 2010, is the fifth anniversary of the London bombings. This year, as before, I hope to spend the day quietly, just getting on with everyday life. I think of the 52 who were denied the chance to do that, and of the hundreds more who survived and for whom the phrase ‘everyday life’ surely has a different meaning. And I think of the unknown numbers of us who have been affected in countless ways since that day, the day when everything changed.

Here is an excerpt from my journal of 7th July 2008:

7/7 memorial in Hyde Park

7 July 2008

Three years ago today at about 10 minutes to eight, I got off the Piccadilly line Tube at Russell Square and went into work as usual. An hour later, four terrorists detonated their bombs, murdering 52 people, injuring hundreds and turning upside down the lives of thousands of relatives and friends.

I was lucky; I wasn’t directly affected at all.

It was my second near miss with a terrorist atrocity: in 1996, on the day before it was detonated, I walked past the Manchester bomb on my way home from work. I could have reached out and touched the bonnet of the van containing the 3,300lb bomb.

I was lucky; I wasn’t directly affected at all.

The London bombings made me aware of the randomness of that sort of violence. The population of London was around 7 million – and almost any one of us could have been victims of the murderers. And I began to wonder how it would feel to reach the end of your life, only to realise that you’d completely wasted it; that there was nothing you could look back on with a sense of achievement, of happiness, of peace.

Over the course of the following year, that sense of a wasted life returned to me time and again, and always I would refuse to face up to the fact that I was denying my true identity, my sense of being gendered female. And each time I pushed those feelings down inside me was another act of self-harm. Until, eventually, I couldn’t take it any more.

And one sunny afternoon in August 2006, I found myself in the headspace where I knew I needed outside help to begin to heal the damage I had done to myself – and was ready to ask for that help. But I had to find that place by myself, and I wouldn’t have started that process without the events of July 2005.

Good things can come from bad. And even though they may not be the things we expected, we should cherish them and be happy for them, because life is too fragile, too precious and too short to waste.

We must live the lives that are ours.

Starting today.

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