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July 7 ten years on: Celia Harrison remembers her experience

David Clack

On July 7, 2005, London was hit by four suicide bombs: three on the Underground and one on a bus. Fifty-two people were killed, and 700 more were injured.

Today, on the tenth anniversary of the bombings, we're publishing first-hand accounts from people who were profoundly involved.

Celia Harrison was the station supervisor at Aldgate – the nearest station to the train where the second Underground bomb was detonated 

‘I remember it was a very nice day. I walked into work. When the bomb went off, we didn’t know what it was, but the whole station shook. We lost all power. I remember seeing what looked like smoke – we later found out it was masses of dust – pouring out of the tunnel. There was no panic as we evacuated the station, but there was no argument either. My abiding memory of that day was the silence. People just went.

‘I phoned what was then called the NOC – Network Operations Centre – and was told that the line breakers had slammed shut, which surprised me. “Yes,” they said, “we’re sure that’s what it was. It’s happened in another location as well.”

‘I had a phone call from a trains manager, who said people were walking themselves off. The moment I saw the first man, I knew it was desperately serious. He was just covered in dirt. Some of the train operators who had been waiting for their trains were there, and they went down on to the tracks. They’re the real heroes in my eyes. The Network Operations Centre asked how many ambulances we needed and I just said: “Everything you’ve got.”

‘It was quite a stunning experience walking out from the relative silence of the station into the chaos of all those vehicles and people and helicopters. It felt like an assault, almost. There were rows of people lying on the pavement, waiting for first aid. A whole load of buses took people to hospital. They didn’t have enough ambulances – there couldn’t be enough ambulances.

‘At 9.40am the police said we had to leave, because they were worried about a secondary device. I managed to get one call in to my mum, to say that I was okay. At about 2.30pm I walked home. Outside the cordon it was just like normal life, which was surreal. I don’t have a television and I didn’t want to follow the coverage. I was going to hear about it enough anyway.

‘A couple of days later I was travelling on a train in uniform and people were staring at me. And I realised it was the uniform – we were being looked at as human beings in a way that hadn’t happened before.

‘There are other positives to come out of it all, too. Shortly after the attack I met one of the victims, who was absolutely lovely, and just so positive. I heard that people who’d lost limbs had reacted in the same positive way about these life-changing injuries. They refused to be terrorised. That’s a wonderful thing.’

Image: Rob Greig


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