Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Remembering the 7/7 attack, in Luton with its constant reminder

7/7. The tenth anniversary of Britain’s worst terrorist attack since the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland. Oddly, though, living in Luton I really don’t need an anniversary to be reminded of that attack.

The bombs, detonated entirely at random, killed 52 innocent people and injured 700 others. It was a gratuitous act, pointless and ultimately futile: nothing was gained and only damage was done.

Although the perpetrators claimed to act in the name of Islam, their victims included Muslims who don’t have anything in common with their point of view. To add insult to injury, as one Muslim survivor pointed out in the Guardian, there is a tendency to treat all Muslims as somehow associated with the guilt of that day, which is particularly hard when one is in fact a victim.

The most awful scenes from the day were naturally of blood-soaked remains or weeping survivors. However, for personal reasons I’m particularly struck by a grainy, indistinct image from a surveillance camera, of a fly-blown, unsightly car park.

That’s because it shows the open parking area outside Luton station. Which was where the bombers left their cars before heading for London, on 7 July 2005.

Surveillance camera shot of the bombers' two cars at Luton station

Another surveillance camera shot: the bombers enter Luton station
Travelling to London to end their own lives while
killing 52 innocent civilians and injuring 700 others
At the time, I wasn’t living in Luton. But I arrived a few years later, and the station is one of the places that I tend to go to or through pretty frequently, whether I’m going to London or just into the town centre. And it always bothers me that this was the place, fifteen minutes walk from my home, where the last stage of that fatal voyage started. It’s almost as though I ought to feel guilty, or at least partly responsible, for what happened next.

The place doesn’t look anything like it did then. It’s hardly become breathtakingly attractive – it’s an open-air bus station – but at least it isn’t quite as run down as it was. Not quite as dishevelled. Not quite as appropriate a setting for such shameful deeds.

The same area today.
Hardly a scene of beauty, but somewhat less desolate
But it still acts as a baleful reminder to me each time I pass.

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