OF SENSELESS ATTACKS
I remember the hotel bombings at a seaside resort in Brighton, the venue for political conferences.
The bombs that exploded in a hotel where senior government officials and politicians were staying killed five people.
The target was the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
IRA had issued warnings a few hours before to instil fear into people and disruption.
During my stint at the BBC, I remember collecting tapes and possessions before running to the roadside when the office received such threats.
It was not unusual to be herded out to safety when I was shopping in Oxford Street, enjoying a play or just travelling in the underground. But, most of the time, it was a false alarm.
Due to that, for some time, there were no rubbish bins in the city, for they were the go-to place to leave time bombs.
The 1990s saw the spillover of the turmoil in the Middle East and the increase of homegrown extremists. The targets were random as were the timing of the attacks.
I was on my way out to university to finish my dissertation on July 7, 2005, when my mobile phone was flooded with messages advising me to stay home as bombs had exploded in London.
In a case like this, information needed to be filtered as some might be confusing and contradicting.
I followed my journalistic instincts and hopped on a bus heading for Edgware Road, one of the three places where bombs had exploded.
On the bus, I met a Malaysian family on holiday.
They had missed their tube in Bayswater heading for Edgware Road and missed the tragedy unfolding there. Thinking of going to Oxford Street, they then took a bus, but it was a bus going the opposite direction. It was the bus where they had met me.
In every step, they were guided away from the disaster.
But, it was during this incident that I met a survivor of the bombing, whose story to this day gives me the chills.
Pak Agus Warcoko was making his way to the office of an Indonesian bank. It was his last day. He was dressed casually, carried a rucksack and took the tube from his house as usual.
But, passengers were advised to disembark and continue the journey by bus at Euston station. The bus was already crowded and Pak Agus had to go to the upper deck.
He was calling the office to say he would run late, when the phone suddenly shot out of his grip. He looked up and saw a gaping hole where the roof once was. He looked down and there were people on the floor, limbs and blood everywhere.
While speaking to him, I had to raise my voice as his hearing was affected by the explosion at that time. In an attack that killed many, he had miraculously escaped with only temporarily affected hearing and a scratch on a finger.
That evening, after leaving Pak Agus’s house, I found myself in front of a mountain of flowers at King’s Cross station, where a bomb had also exploded.
I stood there next to an imam and a priest, and, like those who were placing flowers on the pavement, I thought that each of us were trying to make sense out of these senseless attacks.
The victims were from all walks of life, of different religions and faiths, who had left their homes that morning, never to return.
The young mother in the recent tragedy was on her way to fetch her children from school. They were left there waiting, never to enjoy her hugs and kisses again.
Same goes for PC Keith Palmer, who was stabbed to death in the attack, whose smiling face would remain only in pictures taken by tourists.
I read that this was not, by far, the biggest attack. But, who is comparing? Now, the friends and families of the victims have a huge hole in their lives that no amount of flowers could heal or fill.
Bouquets placed at the site in Westminster, London, where a man recently mowed down pedestrians.