It all started in the most innocuous of ways.
At the time, I had two email conversations going on, both about cricket. One was with the Hudson brothers, Nick, Steve and Chris. At that point I had known Nick for a decade and had met the others when I was best man at his wedding the year before. Nick, in fact, was the one who first told me about Cricinfo, now the go-to site for all cricket fans but very much in its infancy when he first mentioned it.
The other conversation was with two other friends, both lawyers. James had first introduced me to Rob about fifteen months before, at a game at Lord’s, and we’d carried on chatting ever since. It was James who introduced me to the Guardian’s online commentary on big games, fondly known as the ‘OBO’ and the two of us were for a time in competition to see how often we could get the commentators to print our emails.
On this day, there was a one day game between England and Australia taking place in London, so it was only natural that one of the first things that I did upon reaching the office was to open up my emails and begin talking about the game. In the days before Facebook and Twitter, this was what you did.
Suddenly, Rob sent a very different email. “Something’s happening on the Tube, they’ve shut the Circle and District lines”. I replied something to the effect that it was probably a person on the line, and from that point on things got steadily worse.
Rob first replied that they were reporting a bomb on train, then that there had been more explosions, then, finally, that there had been a bomb on a bus as well. As the morning went on the stories became ever more inaccurate, yet the oddest thing was that it seemed to take an age for anyone to connect what was going on to the September 11th attacks in the USA. It was something so unprecedented, so outrageous, that no-one could take it in.
And yet there was a strange determination to return to normality as soon as possible. In Leeds, the match between England and Australia went ahead, and England won. Online, the Guardian continued with their commentary, yet in a decision which baffles me, banned commentator Lawrence Booth from doing much more than reporting the action on the pitch. I’ve tried to find it on their website, but it seems to have gone forever. Again, odd, because no cricket match has been played under similar circumstances and even though it was in my view badly handled, it is still an important moment in history.
That’s not quite the most memorable moment about the day. That was the email that Rob sent after he realised that his then fiancee, Amanda, had been on the bus which left Tavistock Square just before the bus explosion. I’ve never seen, before or since, an email which in itself gave the impression of being white and shaking. That, for me, sums up the terror of those closely connected with the event every bit as much as the fact that even those running a large media group didn’t know how to react to it. It was a day that even those of us who were many miles from it will never forget.