Not my usual blog – July 7 Bombings 2005 – 2015 a VERY personal reflection.
Two weeks ago I received an email asking if I would be prepared to produce a case study in case the press wanted the views of a volunteer as the ten year anniversary for 7/7 (July 7 Bombings in London) approached. This caused me to reflect as to what I would, and would not share about that day. It was tough on many, many levels.
The agreed output from that discussion is published in full below. Then a few days later I was asked if I would like to be one of the few to go to the ten year memorial at St Paul’s Cathedral. In the past I have avoided such things on this particular date. But this time it felt right to go.
To add a few additional notes. One of the two vehicles in the image above was our trusty “truck” for the day. I cannot remember which one of the two it was. There was TV footage of me on the news at the time overtaking St John ambulances (that is me in the ambulance on the left, cutting up a flow of 3-4 other vehicles!).
I was solo at the time, on my way to the agreed meeting point (London Ambulance HQ at Waterloo). To say the speed limits were broken on that day would be an understatement. Adrenalin was flowing at a rate I had never experienced before. Traffic was “black” or not moving in any direction in the west of London. I wont mention the traffic island I nearly took out taking one corner too fast! At that point I did slow down!
Towards the end of the day, before we were stood down, whilst waiting at Kings Cross early in the evening I was asked if I would talk to a local newspaper. The image is all I have left of that, I cannot find the clipping, nor remember the papers name, a local one somewhere from north London.
That was one of the last times I wore that jumpsuit as our workwear changed soon after.
But the London Bombing victims were not the only people I treated on that day. On the way to the scene I was flagged down by some construction workers. A person had fallen and had a minor head injury and leg injury. I assessed the individual, and as they had a vehicle & lived in Kent I advised them drive him there out of London. My other patient that day… well read the end of this piece!
British Red Cross Press Case Study
July 7 Bombings 7/7 recollections – Mike Morrison
Quote from Mike
“I joined the BRC as a volunteer in 1977 when I was just 13. My best friend said that he went to a great club on a Wednesday night and I thought I’d go along too. When I arrived there were a whole bunch of girls learning about child care and changing nappies but the instructors/leaders made it so much fun that I went back and got hooked. I really think those youth groups were a great way of recruiting young volunteers to the Red Cross.
“Once we’d qualified we went out to do first aid at garden fetes, motor cycle scrambling etc. and in 1980, as a 16 year old, when there was a flu epidemic I was working with the nurses at Ashford Hospital. I also helped out with the ambulance strike in 1981 and took time off from my engineering course at college to help out. In fact, I took my First Aid instructor exam a week before I took my GCEs and became one of the BRC’s youngest instructors.
“We are trained to a professional standard. We spend hundreds of hours training and have to prove we are competent by taking regular exams and practical assessments. We may use those skills helping out at a crisis at a care home or by providing tea and water when someone’s power is disconnected but we’re also ready to step in to help with a major crisis.
“On 7/7 I was on duty for the VJ Day celebrations as one of the team covering Green Park. I was in Hammersmith getting the ambulance ready to go when I heard some announcements on the radio. I then received a text alert from the Red Cross. I radioed Event Control and was given permission to ‘blue light’ to the London Ambulance HQ at Waterloo as an emergency rendvous point. As I was the first ambulance to arrive I was asked by London Ambulances to take on the role of Bronze Parking (car parking attendant) until the London Ambulance resources were available to take over that duty.
“Because my BRC ambulance was a fully equipped ambulance for crew training with additional safety helmets, goggles and equipped like a standard front line London Ambulance, I was asked to go with with two paramedics to Edgware Road Tube Station. I joined the paramedics to help out. [What we saw and did are irrelevant. That will stay with me and only me.] After a while I was asked to take the ambulance to King’s Cross.
“Driving through London that day was surreal. There were no taxis, no buses, no cars – the only vehicles on the road were ‘blue light’ vehicles and all you could hear were their sirens. Roads were blocked and so ambulances were driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road to get where they needed to go to fast.
“On the way to King’s Cross, I was driving at high speed and a police officer ran towards me signalling to turn back as they had heard there was another possible suspect device in the area. It was a false alarm but security services were on red alert and weren’t taking any chances.
“Over the years I’ve responded to quite a few major events [inc Ladbroke Grove rail crash, Potters Bar, Reading etc ] and not been asked to do anything ‘on the front line’. Our role is usually to back fill to respond to 999 calls or empty hospitals. 7/7 was different. We were needed on the front line and it meant a lot to me to be there to help. That day I’d expected to go to Green Park for the VE/VJ Day 60th celebrations. The worst I was expecting was, possibly, a cardiac arrest. The BRC had 22 ambulances and crew going mainly as a PR event but I’m sure having those 22 BRC ambulances available in Central London on that day made a big difference. London Ambulances used us and needed us to back-fill on duties.
“My experiences on 7/7 have changed the way I think about a lot of things – in some ways good, in some ways bad. Amidst the horror of that day I also saw humanity at its very best. Everyone came together to help. Local cafes were bringing out ‘bacon butties’ and platters of food for everyone. It was amazing.
“The Red Cross has been a very big part of my life. I met my wife (of over 25 years) through the Red Cross and the Red Cross Youth Group ran a Guard of Honour at my wedding. In fact, I was on Red Cross duty for a couple of hours on the morning of my wedding until I was told by my team to go home and get ready.
“The Red Cross has given me lots including invaluable skills and experience. I’ve had to deal with life and death situations but it’s not about being recognised for doing something, it’s about knowing you did. I was with my daughter recently and an elderly woman was pulled over by her own dog and fell on the street. I was passing by and, as a Red Cross volunteer, I knew what to do and could help. It wasn’t life threatening, but to her it was a crisis at the time. You can’t put a price on that.”
The last “patient” of the day
That was just the main “event” for me on July 7th 2005. On the way home, at Fulham Palace Road I was taking a colleague home after the long day, only to find a person collapsed in the middle of the road. As I got out to help them, they jumped up, opened the door to my car where my colleague was, took a swing at her and got in the back of my car. I got my colleague out. Put on the central locking and called the police! The incident was caught on CCTV, and the police response was fast! I think I counted 5 or 6 police cars responding to “ambulance crew being assaulted!”
The person was arrested and went straight to jail, as apparently they had previously failed to turn up at court! You cannot make this stuff up!
For me July 7th was a long day – one I will never forget!
Yes everything changed – July 7 Bombings
Before July 7 2005 I was a HR Manager/ Consultant with a hobby of volunteering, after July 7 2005 I was still a HR Manager/ Consultant with a hobby of volunteering, but things had changed forever. Intangibles.
The following days I was one of the team based at Kings Cross Station in the memorial garden with the Red Cross and Salvation Army volunteers, providing comfort to people remembering the dead and the injured. That was hard.
I was unfortunate enough to be on an ambulance on the 21st July London bombings – wikipedia on the day of the second “attack”, and again on the following day, the day that John Menezes was fatally shot by police. That whole period was very intense emotionally.
My life changed on July 7th, along with 100s of people on trains, buses and the emergency services that did, and for whatever reason did not get to one of the sites.
7 July, 7/7 or “seven-seven” as many of us know is is a part of our personal history.
What ever you are doing on or around the 7th July on this the 10 year anniversary ask yourself what have you done for your community recently?
It should not take a major incident for the humanity in us to show!