Hazel McHaffie

London bombings

7/7 remembered

Commemorative roseYou’d need to have a heart of stone not to be moved by the commemorative events on Tuesday, ten years on from the 7/7 bombings in London. The ‘ocean of pain’, the quiet grace and dignity of those who lost loved ones, the abiding friendships forged in the face of tragedy, the powerful silences – all eloquent in different ways. The nearest I personally came to the horror back in 2005 was fear for medical colleagues attending a conference nearby in Tavistock Square – all of whom survived, many rushing out to help the injured. The effect of this devastation on those at the heart of it we can only begin to imagine.

But for me one of the most amazing tributes came in the form of a drama. A Song for Jenny, based on the memoir with the same name, was shown on Sunday, two days ahead of the tenth anniversary, and dedicated to the 52 people who lost their lives in the explosions. It didn’t attempt to capture the full scale of the atrocity, focusing instead on one family and the unravelling horror that took place in their lives. Emily Watson is brilliant as mum Julie Nicholson, a Bristol Church of England priest whose 24 year old daughter was killed in the Edgeware Road tube station blast, her own faith shredded in the process. Frank McGuiness‘ screenplay is incredibly powerful and the supporting cast excellent.

Sharing the dawning realisation that Jenny is unaccounted for; listening to the police telling Julie it’s inadvisable to see her daughter’s mutilated body; standing with her beside the coffin as she strokes the familiar hand and struggles to find the words for the anointing of the dead; hearing the cabbie declining payment for running her from London to Reading because he wants her to know ‘there are still good people left in the world’; looking over her shoulder as she dares to view the horrific photos of her daughter’s ‘stations of the cross’ … I defy anyone to remain dry-eyed. The utter futility and bewilderment are embedded in the detail: the fault on the Picadilly line which meant Jenny was on a train taking her in the wrong direction for work; the underground official describing the scene as ‘hell on earth’; Lizzie scribbling all over the photo of her sister’s murderer; the policeman sharing his thoughts about his sleeping sons. The isolation and numbness that both protects and excludes are also sensitively portrayed – my heart bled for Jenny’s father sidelined so often by his strong managing wife (the couple parted after the funeral).

It’s harrowing but it’s also a story of love triumphing over evil, with those left behind determined not to let the bombers ‘win’. And as good art can, it creeps behind the instinctive protective barriers and touches the rest of us deeply, forcing us to reflect on issues which affect us all. Which is why I chose to devote today’s blog to this topic.


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