Calm defiance at Aldgate a year on

Last updated at 09:34 07 July 2006


Commuters were going about their business at Aldgate Tube station today.

But, on the anniversary of the atrocity in which seven of their number died and dozens more were injured, it was very far from being as usual.

An eerie air of calm defiance prevailed over the typical hustle and bustle in this small patch of east London.

As they went in and out of the Underground entrance where - exactly a year ago - a steady stream of casualties was dragged from the smoke, travellers slowed or stopped momentarily to pay their respects.

Some added to the burgeoning collection of flowers that were being laid outside neighbouring St Botolph Church.

But then they continued with their journeys, passing the dozen or so police officers with dogs on hand for reassurance.

Nobody wanted to talk about Shehzad Tanweer, the 22-year-old British Muslim who perpetrated the attack, or his chilling last testament video which was released by al Qaeda yesterday.

Ian Craig, a 57-year-old solicitor from Primrose Hill in north London, said he had not thought twice about going to work today even though it was "emotional".

"I am not nervous at all about travelling, but you can't disregard it.

"I think (the video) was appalling from the point of view of the families and entirely predictable from the point of view of the terrorists wanting to cause trouble."

Mr Craig said he thought the anniversary should be marked, but there was a danger in giving the bombings too much publicity.

"We should be allowed to move on. We are giving terrorists oxygen."

Bouquet

One woman, who refused to be named, left a bouquet of roses by the railings at the church. She said she had wanted to "pay tribute for the workers of London".

The Rev Brian Lee, of St Botolph, said they had organised a rota of priests to be on hand throughout the day.

"We know there will be a lot of people who are upset and remembering."

Mr Lee said he would be presiding over a one-minute silence for staff at the station at 8.50am, when the explosion took place.

A plaque will be unveiled inside at 11.30am in a private service for the bereaved and dignitaries, ahead of the full national two-minute silence at noon.

Mr Lee said it was difficult for him personally to recall the carnage on July 7 last year, when he rushed from the church to help.

"I was here to care for the casualties as they stumbled out. They were covered in black soot and shaking from shock. I cared for them.

"Then my office in the church became a control centre for the emergency services."

Recovery work

Mr Lee said rescue workers and other staff came to the church for sustenance and breaks over the next 10 days while the recovery work continued.

"The bodies lay down there for a couple of days, and then I escorted them when they were brought out."

He added that it was important for people to mark this kind of event.

"People will always remember where they were on that day."

Tube trains carried on running through the moment the blast took place a year ago.

More people came to lay flowers outside the church, bearing messages such as: "One year has passed but you are never forgotten."

Jenny Patel, 31, a marketing executive from Harrow in north London, said she travelled to Aldgate every day but had not felt comfortable this morning. "It's quite chilling coming out of the station and seeing the police and everything.

"It was a bit difficult thinking I was going to Aldgate and was I going to make it off the Tube, even though I didn't go through it last time?

"But you've still got to go to work."

Peggy Doherty, 67, has been travelling to Aldgate from Poplar in east London for many years, and is currently working as a temp.

She said: "It didn't feel that strange this morning. I was on holiday in Spain when it happened.

"I suppose you've just got to keep doing what you do, otherwise the terrorists beat you."

Security guard Isuru Wijeratene, 32, said he rushed to the scene from the neighbouring office where he works immediately after Tanweer detonated his device.

"It is difficult for me today because it brings back memories of last year. I remember the noise, people coming out and the smoke. It was very scary that day."

Mr Wijeratene, who commutes from Ilford in Essex, said he worked for nearly 16 hours solidly helping survivors and emergency services.

"It blew up underneath our (office) building. I felt very nervous getting on the Tube myself today.

"People will always remember that day but it's also important not to stop our day-to-day work or let it affect our lives."

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