7th of July


Thursday morning I was in a chemistry lesson, the class was loud. We'd just been sitting our GCSEs and half the students were in a coach on their way to France for a school trip. We were messing about, nobody really noticed that the teacher was late.

His face was serious, and today he didn't seem interested in what he was teaching us. One of the girls looking at her phone under the desk said "oh my god" and read out the message. That was how I found out there had been a terrorist attack in London.

The chatter got louder and our teacher tried to distract us with an experiment, but nobody was interested in the lesson any more. The day before, London had beaten Paris to the bid for the Olympics. "Maybe it's the French." A dozen phones were removed from their various hiding places and we began frantically texting and calling our friends who were on their way to France. The trip was cancelled. The channel tunnel had been closed and the coach was making its way back to the school. They knew as little as we did.

This was a time when 15 year olds didn't have phones with internet access. I had a Nokia 3310 with a black and white screen and the most advanced thing I could do on it was play Snake. Our teacher was sitting in silence not even bothering to take them away from us. I guess he'd been asked not to tell us anything, so the rumours went on for about 10 or 15 minutes before he stood up and calmly asked everyone to be quiet.

"You're not going to learn anything in my lesson today and you're going to find this out soon enough so… some bombs have gone off on the tube. That's really all I know. If you want to call your parents, that's fine."

A teacher came to our door and asked one of the girls to step out. She didn't come back to the lesson. We later found out her dad had been injured by one of the bombs and was in hospital. The city I lived in was a commuter town. A lot of people had family who worked in London.

The bell went for break and suddenly every computer room was full. I went to the library and logged onto a machine, trying to find out what had happened, but they'd blocked the internet connection. We were told it would be down for the rest of the day.

I walked around in a daze. The bell rang for lessons but nobody paid attention to it.

Thursday lunchtimes I helped run a reading club. I had a fun lesson planned writing difficult spellings on digestive biscuits with icing. Not even the teacher came. I squeezed writing icing onto my fingers. Looking out of the window into the courtyard, there were groups of students, everyone crying and hugging each other. All my friends were on a bus, stuck in traffic on the M25.

Something I've wondered since is how different it would have been if we'd had today's technology. Internet was disabled to stop students being upset by what was happening, telling us "there's nothing you can do". So we exchanged frantic text messages with parents for information, which was difficult because some phone networks were down.

Without knowing what had happened, we thought back to what we'd seen on TV 4 years ago, and we imagined that was taking place 20 miles away.

7 years later and my country is about to host the Olympics. One girl who was in my form is taking part as an athlete, and I've got a ticket to see her. 2012 seemed so impossibly far away back then.