LONDON – When Jasmine Gardner saw the No. 30 bus pass by in Tavistock Square (search), she was desperate to get on it. She had just been forced off the Underground at Euston but, like thousands of others, had no idea why. All she knew was that she had to get to work and this double-decker was going her way.
The driver stopped to let a few people off, but did not let anyone on. Why? The bus was not full. Jasmine, 22, walked alongside, irritated, and the bus pulled ahead. She was walking briskly, intent on catching it, when it exploded. Bits of metal rained on her umbrella, a stormcloud of debris, solids and flesh, filled the air.
It was 9:47 a.m. A bomber had struck. She grabbed the person closest and they ran. The bus had been destroyed. "I thought that everyone must have died." It did not take long before she realized how close she had come to disaster. When I interviewed her, she was still shaking, wrapped in a blue St. John Ambulance blanket.
No one knew how many had died on the bus but everyone assumed the worst. The police had cordoned off the square but, even at a distance, you could see the elegant façade of the British Medical Association (search) splattered with bits of blood and bodies.
"Blood and guts," whispered a man sadly as we stood at the cordon. "Blood and guts."
Lorenzo Pia, an Italian postgraduate medical student, was leaving his nearby flat when he heard the blast.
"The bus was without shape," he said. "Four or five injured people were walking about. They were dripping with blood, some from the head, others from legs and arms. Five or six people were lying in the street. They were not moving."
"One of the injured was a young teenage girl who had blood streaming down her face. Another, an elegantly dressed man, had a leg injury. A woman was crying. She had blood down her face too, but there wasn't any panic or screaming. People just got on with helping each other."
Sharleen Cunningham-Brown, 26, was walking along when she heard, and felt, the impact of the bomb. She saw people, presumed dead, on the pavement. She ran into a doorway, and hugged the strangers she found there.
"Everyone was crying and hugging each other," she said. "It was like it was chaos and then, a few seconds later, it was quiet."
It was some time before anyone spoke the word "terrorism." Even then, it did not seem real. It was early evening before reports emerged on what had happened on the No. 30.
Terence Mutasa, a staff nurse at University College (search) hospital, treated two passengers, young women in their twenties, for minor injuries and shock.
"They were saying some guy came and sat down on the bottom deck and that he exploded," he said. "They said the guy sat down and the explosion happened. They thought it was a suicide bomber."
Ayobai Bello, 43, a security guard, left his bank to cross Tavistock Road when it was flooded with commuters coming down from Euston. He saw the explosion and the top and back ripped off the bus. It was a scene of carnage.
"All I could think was, they are all dead. I saw all this with my own eyes. In front of me in the road was a woman but there were no arms and there were no legs, it was just her body and her head, and body parts were scattered everywhere. There were also two men on the floor, one in blue trousers and one in a shirt, they were both dead. They were both gone. The man I saw hanging dead from the bus, he was a very old man with white hair. He was about 80."
Hours later, in the streets around the bus, the atmosphere was eerie.
Hotels and businesses were evacuated and scores of people trailed trolley suitcases behind them. There were no raised voices. Everyone was being most kind to one another.
The Friends House opened its doors to the displaced in Euston. Its corridors were lined with people wrapped in silver foil to keep warm. It provided refreshments, a quiet room for prayer, and large area where everyone gathered to listen to the radio. There was no hubbub. People just sat. A few seemed to be crying, privately.
Others gathered in groups in doorways or in foyers of the large university buildings that dot this part of London. They stood around televisions to watch the news. Looking at the bus, from the police cordon, I knew that in hours it would become a shrine.