Monday, October 24, 2005

On November 1st

On November 1st there is a Service of Remembrance following the London bombings of 7 July 2005. It will be held in St. Paul's Cathedral, capacity 2300. The Queen, will be there, the great and the good. And the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. (You may have read about a hoo-haa that was in some of the papers about the bombers' families being invited. They weren't.)

Anyway. I chased up the Department of Culture, Media and Sport who are organising the gig and asked if people from Kings Cross United could come, 'or was it just for VIPs?'. No, it was for survivors as well as bereaved, and also for the LU staff, the police, the emergency services, all who helped on that day. Good.

After a bit of faffing, and emailing back and forth, 20 tickets were secured and the DCMS were helpful and so were the Red Cross, and now 20 of us are going to sit together in a row , and then go to the pub and more people will join us. Some of Kings Cross United were already on the list for tickets; if you were injured, if you'd contacted the Red Cross, or went to the Victoria 7/7 Family Liason Centre, or if you had applied for charitable relief, or for compensation I think you got put on a database.

(Or you were meant to have been; the Data Protection Act stymied a lot of well-intended efforts, as did the general confusion following 7th July. People like me, for example, who had given statements to the police, had my name and details and photo taken at a hospital, had been to the Victoria 7/7 Liason Centre, called the Red Cross, called the helpline, been to the NHS Trauma Clinic, and generally done quite a bit one way or another since the unfortunate altercation with Al Quaeda, still weren't on the damn list. Or lists. )

Anyway, got there in the end, and the Service will be an important marking point for many of us. Including me.

Some of us in KCU are a bit apprehensive about what it will be like, and a KCU member sent an email round, saying she had felt 'awfully down', but had also 'not had much emotion', and had been in tears on the Tube, and it felt like the first few weeks after the bomb, all over again. She wondered whether it could be the up-coming Remembrance service. She was worried about how it might affect her, how emotional she might feel, how others were feeling

I had been thinking something similar myself. Recently, I have been more upset than I was in the numb weeks after the bomb, when I couldn't cry.

Her email got me thinking, and I replied

I think I will feel very sad too and I have booked the next morning off after the service. But I also know that human beings need rituals like funerals, services of remembrance to mourn and process things, and to commemorate the passing of time and the losses that we feel. And that is why we have buried our dead and remembered triumphs and tragedies for thousands of years.

It is one of the things that makes us human. So, although it is sad, I think I need to grieve, and in a way I welcome the chance to do so on November 1st. If you don't grieve, it is easy to stay frozen and locked into your sadness. And that ultimately makes it harder to heal, and harder to engage with life full-heartedly afterwards.

Don't worry if you feel emotional. I'm sure we all will. I know I will. Hundreds of thousands of people do, that is why the BBC are broadcasting the service, because so many people want to mark the occasion. That is why there was a 2 minute silence a week after the bombs.

Did you know November 1st is the Hispanic/Mexican Day of the Dead? In many parts of the world, people feel sad about people they love who have died on that day but they also feast and celebrate in their honour. They feel that they are with them too - they even set places at the table for them. Perhaps we can take a cue from them. It is a time for remembrance and sadness, but it is also a time to be together and share our feelings about life and to feel very alive.We can all hold hands and pass tissues. And afterwards, we can go to the pub.

On November 1st I will stand shoulder to shoulder with my fellow passengers once more. I will think of all of those who did not step off the train, the dead, the injured, those we had to leave behind in the dark. And after the prayers have been said, I will pour a glass for those not with us, I will drink to them, and maybe for a short while, I will feel them at our side.

I don't know who held my hand in the dark on that train. But I drink to them too, and to all of my fellow passengers, whether they can be with me on November 1st, at the service, at the pub, whether they are at my side or not, wherever they are.


Blogger Mervyn said...

Great reply. Keep up the good work.

October 26, 2005 7:32 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd be more offended by Blair being invited, personally. The bombers' families will be grieving too. Blair is responsible for that grief in the first place - he is literally responsbile for the brutal deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. No way would I be able to attend a memorial service with such a murderous self-serving hypocrite. But like a good little Orwellian society, many will be able to turn a blind eye to this unpleasant fact.

October 27, 2005 4:30 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...


You're kind of preaching to the converted ...

October 27, 2005 4:57 pm  
Blogger Tube Dude said...

My thoughts will be with you all, except the PM, on 1st November. If any of your KCU are having trouble using the tube, please email me and I'll see if I can help

October 28, 2005 10:30 am  
Blogger UKJoanie said...

I read your Blog with interest. I work in Hammersmith, actually I jobshare with Paul Dadge of the infamous picture with the girl in the burns mask fame. His life has been changed, party because of the media interest that is likely to follow him for the rest of his life.
The week of the bombings, I was preparing to travel down to Devon on Holiday. I usually commute from Hertfordshire into Hammersmith, travelling on the Piccadilly line from Finsbury Park across London. The timing is such that I would have been at Kings Cross/Russell Square at the time the bomb went off.
Just the thought of this sent a chill through me, and I spent a strange week in Devon, seeing Paul's photo in every newspaper, and wondering if I could ever travel on the Tube again. I was terrified, and considered quitting my job there and then.
The first day back (the following Monday), I laid flowers at Kings Cross and read all the tributes there.Very moving. The journey was awful, not just because of the delays and overcrowding on the Victoria Line, but because eyes were darting everywhere, looking for people with large rucksacks and being suspicious of everyone. I saw a woman with rosary beads, praying, on one train.
My heart goes out to everyone affected by what happened in July. I carry a torch now, it might sound ridiculous but it's a comfort to me to know that if something did happen I might not be left in the dark.
I wasn't in London that day, but I feel deeply affected nonetheless, and I wish you all the best.

October 28, 2005 1:48 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Actually MC, I do find your comments inappropriate, in the context of this blog. Not the point about Blair, particularly, - but the charge you infer against those attending the service as somehow being hypocritical or foolish in attending, as if doing so gives tacit support for Blair's policies.( Are you calling me and the others attending the service Proles, or Party Members, a la 1984, by the way? Perhaps you might consider the offence your remarks have given - you haven't upset Blair with those remarks, but you have sure as hell upset me, and I'd query why that was entirely necessary. )

I am attending the Memorial Service because I want to mourn the dead and stand in solidarity with the living. The presence of a PM who I dislike is not sufficient to prevent me from doing this. To me, real heartfelt grief is more important than puerile political posturing.

Thankyou Tube Dude and UK Joanie

October 28, 2005 2:05 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Thanks Tube dude and ukjoanie,

I have had email contact with Paul, and it does seem to have affected him profoundly.

Tube Dude, that was a very kind offer, I will tell the group.

best wishes


October 28, 2005 2:07 pm  
Blogger annie mole said...

Rachel - changing the subject ever so slightly, I had heard that the St Paul's service was going to be screen at Trafalgar Square tomorrow for people who would like to pay their repsects but who obviously can't get into St Pauls now.

Do you know if this is true? and if so where could I find out more information about this?


October 31, 2005 4:49 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

The service will be broadcast live on BBC1 and on BBC radio 4 from 2.40pm, and there will be big screens in Trafalgar Square as well.

(beware, the media will be in evidence in Trafalgar Square so if you want privacy, I'd listen to the radio or watch the TV somewhere else.) I think it will be good to watch with other Londoners where we all stood on 14/7 for the moving & memorable Vigil in memory of the 7/7 victims

October 31, 2005 7:53 pm  

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