London Marks Anniversary of Deadly Attacks One year ago today, four suicide bombs killed 52 people on the London transport system. Services will commemorate the anniversaries of the tragedies in the British capital, but to most British civilians, the attacks haven't led to an "at-war" mentality.
NPR logo

London Marks Anniversary of Deadly Attacks

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5539916/5539955" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
London Marks Anniversary of Deadly Attacks

London Marks Anniversary of Deadly Attacks

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5539916/5539955" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

(Soundbite of bell ringing)

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Those are the chimes of Big Ben, the sound that marked the beginning of two minutes of silence in London today. People are remembering the suicide bombings that killed 52 people on the transport system one year ago.

Right Reverend RICHARD CHARTRES (Bishop of London): The city is unusually quiet this morning. I remember last year. We had been expecting that something would happen, but, of course, it was a shock when it did.

INSKEEP: That's the Bishop of London, the Right Reverend Richard Chartres at a special service this morning at St. Paul's Cathedral. As the city commemorates the anniversary, NPR's Rob Gifford reports from London.

ROB GIFFORD reporting:

John Falding remembers every detail of the morning of July 7 last year. His girlfriend, Anat Rosenberg had just left their central London apartment for work and was sitting on a bus, talking to John on her cell phone when, suddenly, she stopped speaking.

Mr. JOHN FALDING: I heard unworldly screams in the background - nothing from her, nor did I hear an explosion. But after a couple of seconds of this chilling sound, her mobile went dead and it kept going to voice mail and I knew something terrible had happened. But at this stage there was no suggestions it was a terrorist attack until after about half an hour they started to say that a bus had exploded and then they put two and two together and said it looks like a terrorist attack. And I knew I'd lost her.

GIFFORD: Anat Rosenberg was killed on the Number 30 bus along with 12 other people. In all, 52 people died that morning in the four attacks, and more than 700 were injured as London came to a standstill.

The stories and the horror of it all sound eerily similar to 9/11, though, of course, the numbers were far fewer in London and the imagery of the collapsing Twin Towers was absent.

Dr. PETER NEUMANN (Director, Centre for Defense Studies, King's College London): It certainly changed the awareness that there is an acute threat from Islamic terrorism in the United Kingdom, but it didn't fundamentally change the way of life in Britain.

GIFFORD: Peter Neumann is Director of the Centre for Defense Studies at King's College London. He says 30 years of dealing with attacks by the Irish Republican Army meant that terrorism was not new to Londoners.

Dr. NEUMANN: There certainly was an awareness amongst the British government and senior civil servants that probably the best thing that you could do in order to deny the terrorists what they are seeking is to just carry on with business as usual, and so the scale of the legal changes, the overall response to the terrorist act, was probably less of an overreaction than what we saw in the United States.

GIFFORD: That idea that the United States overreacted after 9/11 is quite strong here. Many Britons opposed the invasion of Iraq, seeing no connection between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein. And President Bush's insistence that America is at war is generally not matched by a similar feeling among the British public.

At Euston Station, near to where Anat Rosenberg was killed, school principal Neil Hutchison is waiting for a train.

Mr. NEAL HUTCHISON: It was definitely a seminal moment for people, you know, to realize just how vulnerable ordinary people are - and indiscriminately vulnerable. You know, no one was safe after that day.

GIFFORD: Do you think that Britain's at war?

Mr. HUTCHISON: No, Britain is not at war. We're involved in world politics and (unintelligible) it's simply a political situation that's being acted out.

GIFFORD: Anne Tuck, visiting London from the Midlands, agrees.

Ms. ANNE TUCK: I think it was a big shock but, no, we don't say we're at war, do we. We don't use the word war.

GIFFORD: There has been new legislation. One new law extends the period suspects can be held without charge to 28 days from 14. Another bans the glorification of terrorism. And, of course, security has been stepped up, and policing is tighter. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke is head of the Metropolitan Police Anti-Terrorist Branch.

Officer PETER CLARKE (Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Anti-Terrorist Branch, London): In the last year, what we've seen is an unrelenting, unremitting set of streams of intelligence which demand investigation. In the Anti-Terrorist Branch alone, we're currently running some 70 investigations. Since last summer, 41 people have been charged in the United Kingdom with terrorist-related offenses.

GIFFORD: Clarke says recent intelligence leaves him very concerned. He says Britons should brace themselves for the possibility of more attacks.

Rob Gifford, NPR News, London.

INSKEEP: To see more responses on this anniversary of the bombings from London and beyond, check out World Opinion on npr.org.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.