It was almost normal. Aside from three stocky policemen posted outside the tube station, their tall helmets and fluorescent yellow jackets visible from the end of the street, it was business as usual at Mile End, just two stops away from a blast yesterday where seven of the day’s 50-plus fatalities took place.
The Central Line platform was by no means deserted at 9:20 a.m., though the usual crush was reduced to a gentle throng. Inside, seated passengers flicked through newspapers, digesting photos of victims and rescuers, the mangled red No. 30 bus and graphics mapping the bomb sites. As we approached Liverpool Street, an announcement that the station had been closed due to a security alert was greeted with a few raised eyebrows and grudging nods. It was calm, quiet and pensive; we all knew what everyone else was thinking.
Next to me, Ahson Baig, 30, an English accountant of Turkish descent, admitted he and his partner had argued over whether to come into work by tube today. “It scares the living daylights out of you, doesn’t it?” he said. “I felt hesitant, I asked myself whether it was safe, but why should I let someone else dictate what I want to do? No one has the God-given right to stop me living my life.”
His partner, Iva Acrabova, is pregnant and had to walk three hours to get home last night. “I didn’t want to come in today,” she said, “so I’m wearing my tracksuit in protest.”
As a Muslim active at Hounslow mosque, Baig says he is angered that terrorists use Islam to justify their actions. “There’s such a sadness in my community,” he said, “but we fight it by being positive and standing up to them.”
Across the compartment, my eye caught a red-headed Scottish man covered in bloody scrapes and grazes. “Were you involved in yesterday’s attacks?’ I ventured.
He laughed. “I wish I could say I had been, but the sad fact is I got way too drunk and fell over.” Jessica Carsen
One of the joys for commuting cyclists in this city is that we don’t have to endure the breakdowns and delays of its overburdened public transport system. On Thursday, that advantage almost became shocking neglect. My journey from Hackney in the north to the center of town yesterday passed, as usual, within a few streets of King’s Cross and Russell Square stations, just minutes after bombs were going off in the tunnels far below. This morning, there was no escaping the memory, yet the mood on the street is different, subtly changed. The queues at bus stops were long but no one was jostling and shoving, cars stopped to offer lifts, drivers waved pedestrians on, and bicyclesfar more than usual and many in need of a few repairswere out in force. London is sad but, against all odds, it feels like a nicer place to be today. Michael Brunton
Every morning, around 9:10 a.m., the 59 bus creeps out of Streatham Hill Bus Garage to start its journey through London to Euston Station. By the time it reaches Brixton about 10 minutes later, it’s standing room only, filled with people jostling for space on their morning commute. And it’s noisy. People chat loudly to each other or on their mobile phones, while mothers try to comfort wailing babies and kids turn their MP3 players up so high that the music seeps out from their headphones in a buzzing, tinny beat. It stays that way until the bus reaches Waterloo, usually 40 minutes after it first left Streatham.
But not today. Today, the 59 began its journey as it always does, but at bus stops where crowds stood yesterday, only handfuls of people milled around. Some stops were completely deserted and the bus sailed past them, zipping through traffic so light, it reached Waterloo 10 minutes earlier than usual. Only half-full for the entire trip, the bus was eerily quiet. People spoke to each other in hushed tones; mobile-phone conversations were kept short and serious; kids kept their music for themselves. Even the babies were silent. Once in a while, passengers on their way to Russell Square (the site of one of the blasts) were told the bus wouldn’t stop there and they had a 10-minute walk ahead of them. Their distressed murmurings some irritated, some confused broke the quiet for just a moment, until they, too, sat down and just stared out the window. Jumana Farouky
By lunchtime, fears of a repeat attack seemed to be fading and passengers on London’s buses looked a bit more comfortable in their seats. Riding into town from Hammersmith, teenage girls chattered brightly on the bottom deck and finally exited in a fit of giggles. It was almost business as usual. On any other day the sharp knock at the back of the bus as it approached Piccadilly Circus might have been interpreted as something mundane: an umbrella hitting the floor, a high heel’s clatter. Today it provoked a panic for one woman seated in the back row of the lower floor. She looked around anxiously for a minute or so and then surged towards the doors, pushing past those standing. Locked in traffic, less than 100 yards from the next bus stop, she started shouting for the driver to open the doors immediately. When he began driving toward the stop instead she doubled over and began breathing heavily. Thirty seconds later the doors were open. She ran out and away from the bus without glancing back. Other passengers exchanged uncomfortable glances as they slowly filed out. Almost, but not quite, business as usual. Lillian Kennett
Instead of the sounds of bus motors and chatty commuters, my buzzing alarm clock started my day. The absence of car horns and sirens that I usually hear on Fleet Street made Friday’s “rush hour” seem more like Sunday afternoon. Cars that normally inch through congested streets rolled down open lanes. The sidewalks were void of the scents of coffee and cigarettes. Only a handful of commuters were popping into their favorite stores for their morning croissant and bagels.
So it was a pedestrian paradise. I walked for blocks without one person bumping me. For the first time, I noticed a letterbox near a bus stop because there were no bus riders crowded around it. Where were the tourists asking me for directions to Covent Garden? Where were the crimson trails of double-decker buses that brighten London's streets? I think a lot of east Londoners decided to take a well-deserved summer Friday off. As for me, I made it to the office in 30 minutes, and thanked the skies it wasn’t raining. Jeneé Darden