My mother always was a worrier. From the first day I moved to London, she perpetually fretted over the risk that "something awful" would happen one day. I always used to tell her my odd shifts provided relative security. "If they ever do attack London" I once said, "it'll be at rush hour, and I'll have been in work for hours by the time that happens...."
July 7th 2005 was already going to be a tough day, with the G8 summit and reaction to the previous day's announcement that London would stage the 2012 Olympics.
Since 5am I'd been running the newsdesk at Classic FM -- while most of our staff were being briefed on an impending merger with another faceless media corporation. The office was pretty much empty.
And when at 9.15am the first reports emerged of an "explosion" at Liverpool Street station it just felt like another big-ish story on an already busy day.
More reports followed, but Tube managers insisted it was an electrical fault. I called a friend to warn her she might struggle to get to work.
Twenty minutes later one woman arrived at our central London studios covered in soot -- evacuated from a Piccadilly Line train through the tunnels to King's Cross station. On TV we could see people leaving Aldgate station covered in blood. A colleague called to say she wasn't keen to get on the Tube right now. I told her to stay at home, as there was little chance of me getting out of central London I'd stay and cover her shift.
“What do we know?”
The hour between 10 and 11 was filled with speculation. Four bombs, five, then six. Tubes and buses, more attackers out there. Imagine how much worse the rumours would have been if we'd had twitter.
It took until the early afternoon to get a clear picture of what had happened. Three bombs on the Underground, at Aldgate, Edgware Road and Russell Square. A fourth on a bus in Tavistock Square. Dozens killed, hundreds injured.
By this stage, we were on air every quarter-of-an-hour, our normal 3 minute bulletins running for nearer 10, adverts dropped, the music low-key. The merger meeting postponed, people drifted by the newsdesk to offer help.
More rumours quickly turned out to be false -- bombs in bins on Oxford Street, a suicide bomber shot by police. We instituted an hourly re-assessment, listing the things we knew for certain, the things we thought were right but hadn't been confirmed, and the things that seemed pure speculation. Only those in the first category got on air.
I kept playing the same clip of a man who was on the Russell Square train. He talked about how people in his carriage were praying, crying, convinced they were about to die. He said he pitied those behind the bombings.
Just after 7pm I left the building for the first time in 14 hours. It was humid, pouring with rain, and Oxford Street was deserted -- the only place still open a McDonalds, packed with bemused tourists.
An hour or so later I wandered to a nearby hotel and fell asleep within a few minutes. At 4 the next morning I got up, put on yesterday's clothes and walked back into the office.
At lunchtime on the 8th I left for home, walked onto the street and paused at the top of the stairs leading into Oxford Circus station. I hadn't really thought about how I'd get home. But what alternative was there? And wouldn’t seeking an alternative be in some way a victory for those behind this attack? The tube was deserted, and the Victoria Line train crept through King's Cross without stopping.
That night, a few friends who'd spent the last two days covering the attacks gathered in a bar in Camden -- the unplanned drink felt like twisting open the radiator of an overheated car. We got there on crowded, but still quiet, buses and tubes.
As we learned more about the bombers, their normality seemed almost offensive. How could such ordinary, even dull people cause such pain? And why? What could happen to someone, to make them think this was not only acceptable, but in some twisted way essential?
Two weeks later I sat on a bus on Tottenham Court Road, wondering why we hadn’t moved for 10 minutes. Just as a text arrived from the newsdesk, warning of another possible attack, a police officer threw us off the bus. I wandered towards Russell Square station and started an odd, deja-vu day of reporting on the abortive bomb plot of July 21st.
We thought London would never be the same. The same way people in New York or Madrid imagined their cities had changed forever. And for a while people did act differently. But soon enough we were back to silent tube commuting, glaring at anyone standing on the left on an escalator, or blocking the exits.
A year later I went to Regent’s Park, for a live programme around events to mark the first anniversary of the attacks. My OB kit balanced on the back of a deck chair in a plastic bag, as we listened to the nearby service two guys argued about paying for the chairs, and kids fought over who should get the biggest ice cream. Normality had, in the end, returned.
You never forget the terrible things that happen to you, or around you, in your life. But if you never move past them you’ve already lost.