7 July London bombings: The world on a train, 10 years on

Victims of the 7 July attacks Image copyright Various

Ten years ago, Geoff Ryman - author of the pioneering online novel 253, which told of the relationships between people who happened to be on a Tube train at the same time - paid tribute to the varied lives of those who died on 7 July. A decade after the attacks, he reflects on why their stories remain just as relevant.

On Friday the nation observed a minute's silence for 30 Britons killed in Tunisia. Ten years on from 7/7 and Westerners are still targets.

Ten years on and the news from Borno State, Nigeria, is that Boko Haram has shot 97 people who were praying … in mosques. When I first read the biographies of the victims of 7/7, I found it a dreadful irony that so many victims were Muslim.

That no longer surprises us. The old civilised Middle East from Aleppo to Mosul to Aden is being bombed flat, its treasures destroyed, and its people subjected to psychosocial horrors that will sink into successive generations. Though some terrorists still operate in small cells, the Islamic State group and Boko Haram act like armies, conquering and holding territory.

The turmoil is spreading. Today Egypt declared a state of war after attacks on Egyptian soldiers by IS-linked fighters. The new Egyptian anti-terrorism laws are themselves pretty terrifying.

How many websites would we need to pay heed to all the dead?

Lately I've been pondering the difference between civilisation and barbarism.

Both, it seems to me are founded on military might - civilisation needs to hold its ground. But barbarism is heedless - of people, of history, of consequences, of science, of art, and the human urge to generosity and kindness. Barbarism hates difference - a different ethnic group, a different past, or a different shade of your own religion.

So please, even if you disagree with what I write - ignore me and go on to read the stories of these people. Pay heed to them, wonder at the variety of their stories - in the name of civilisation.

Image copyright ALAMY

7/7 bombings: The victims


The most important thing about these people is not how they died but how they lived. All of them were hard-working, decent and loving. That seems to be what most of us are. Goodness is ordinary. Which is why it so often goes unreported.

How unexpected and individual we all are. In these life stories, you will meet a Caribbean singing sensation. You'll learn that the head of marketing for the Girl Guides was promoting a new rose named in honour of the Brownies. How did a Vietnamese-American come to have a Japanese surname?

We live in a secular society, but religion still seems to be a major part of many people's lives. Here you will read about a Baptist church deacon, a student of divinity who went on to be a successful businesswoman, and a talented musician whose uncle is a preacher.

Farewell kiss

So many of households are multi-faith - Jewish and Christian, or mingled Methodist and Hindu. Anthony Fatayi-Williams was the beloved son of a Catholic mother and Muslim father.

Image copyright Family/BBC
Image caption Carrie Taylor

The family remains central to our lives. Carrie Taylor and her mother gave each other a farewell kiss every morning on the concourse of Liverpool Street station. Susan Levy shared her daily commute with her 17-year-old son. Arthur Frederick had just returned from Grenada where he helped rebuild his elderly parents' home damaged by Hurricane Ivan. Anna Brandt's daughter had only arrived from Poland on the day of the explosions. Anna was identified from a DNA sample given by her brother. Of course, there are all those families who travelled from Mauritius, Poland, Israel, France or East Peckham to search for missing relatives.

There are so many love stories here. "He was my world," says Stephanie Reid of her fiance David Foulkes. "As soon as we met, we knew that was it." Samantha Badham and Lee Harris met as teenagers. They were only travelling together that morning because of plans to celebrate their 14th anniversary. Lee Baisden, who worked for the fire service, had just moved in with his boyfriend. Michael Matsushita fell in love with an English girl while working in Cambodia. Benedetta Ciaccia was busy planning her wedding in Rome to her British Muslim fiance.

Image copyright Family handout/West Mercia Police
Image caption Lee Harris and Samantha Badham

We all know London's source of strength is its diversity. In the borough of Lambeth, 132 languages are spoken. But it's not only London that is becoming multi-cultural. So is the world as a whole. Here you will find an Asian-Australian, a Chinese-Mauritian, a Tunisian from France, an Irishwoman from New Zealand and a Grenadian from Montserrat.

Arts, music and sport lighten our lives. Christian Small was a dedicated athlete. Shelley Mather had a passion for indoor cricket. Monika Suchocka had just joined a choir. A talented artist, Marie Hartley was going to Islington to find a new illustrator for the studio where she worked.

Everywhere there is war. A young Afghan refugee had already lost members of his family to conflict. Two people who were refugees from Vietnam. One family escaped violence in Northern Ireland. An Israeli woman had left Israel to avoid the suicide bombers there. Helen Jones grew up near Lockerbie, where the Pan Am jet exploded. She grew up to be a consultant who took time to work with Glasgow's homeless.

Unexpected lives

Image copyright Family/ PA
Image caption Giles Hart

So many of these people actively worked to help end injustice. The journalist and picture researcher Miriam Hyman furthered Israeli-Palestinian understanding. Colin Morley is described as an advertising genius who used his talents to build more ethical businesses. Fiona Stevenson took time off from her legal career to do volunteer work in Belize. Giles Hart posthumously received an honour from Poland for his work with Solidarity. Gladys Wundowa, Ojara Ikeagwu and Behnaz Mozakka all helped with social services or health care.

I don't believe there are evil people or evil countries, but there are undoubtedly evil thoughts and deeds. They come when we are tired, lazy, threatened or angry - rather like the shooting of that innocent Brazilian man. Everybody has a measure of right on their side and a measure of wrong.

The philosopher Hannah Arendt concluded that evil lay in the refusal to think. One of the things evil cannot face contemplating is variety. It prefers monolithic simplicity. Reality outstrips simplicity through a constant flowering of unexpected lives. Evil thoughts and deeds cannot prevail against it.

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