King's Cross Station, London's Underground Zero
Sunday, July 24, 2005
The flowers disappeared quietly one night, while a wounded city slept.
A midnight work crew dismantled the makeshift shrine to London's bomb victims at King's Cross Station, where the spontaneous tribute had blossomed on a patch of sidewalk in the heart of the terror zone. It was time, officials had decided, to move on.
No announcement was made; no protest raised.
The clean sweep of hundreds of bouquets and cards and crayoned drawings offered a startling reminder of just how complicated the public grieving process has been for Britain's capital.
Yet even as the capital shuddered beneath a fresh wave of smaller attacks Thursday afternoon, the most tangible signs of the city's suffering, like the flowers at King's Cross, continued to vanish -- were taken down, bustled away, tucked aside.
With most of the carnage and destruction buried deep beneath the ground in subway tunnels where three of the four bombs exploded, Londoners have no visible equivalent of a Ground Zero. In many ways, their pain is hidden away, as well.
"There are several layers to the effect this is having on people," said Janet Haddington, a Westminster city social worker who has been counseling bereaved families, stunned survivors and citizens who felt traumatized by the July 7 attacks that left 56 dead and hundreds more injured.
"There is a resilience around, a kind of intent not to let the bombers triumph," she said. But the outward pluck disguises the private suffering. Hotlines set up to help citizens cope with the trauma hear from people too afraid to take public transportation, from those who missed a train and wonder why fate spared them.
"A lot of people need to be very gentle with themselves right now," Haddington said.
Public books of condolence are being officially archived, tribute bouquets are being shuttled from park to park near the various bombing sites as city and government officials ponder where and how to memorialize the victims. Most funerals have been private, and brief eulogies from stricken families are issued at the bottom of police press releases announcing that the coroner has officially declared someone dead.