July 7, 2009 / 5:21 PM / 10 years ago

London unveils monument to 7/7 victims

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Britain marked the fourth anniversary of suicide bombings on London’s transport system by unveiling a monument on Tuesday made up of 52 steel pillars to commemorate each of the victims.

Survivors and relatives of the victims paid tribute at the monument in Hyde Park, built to honor those killed when bombs ripped through three London underground trains and a bus on July 7, 2005.

The structure, comprising steel columns with individual characteristics, was commissioned by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport on behalf of the families of victims.

Prince Charles said the monument fulfils a deeply held need for the survivors and victims.

“Each one offers a path to peace and healing, each one honors the dead and each remind us to lead our lives in a way that would make them proud,” he said.

He was joined by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, London Mayor Boris Johnson and a host of other dignitaries who witnessed the unveiling of the monument at the south east corner of the park.

Names of the victims were read out and a minute’s silence observed.

Architects Carmody Groarke said the 52 columns were grouped to represent the locations of the bombings in Tavistock Square, Edgware Road, Kings Cross and Aldgate, and families of victims were involved in choosing the design and location of the monument.

Sharon Nicholson, 50, whose 24-year-old niece Jennifer Nicholson was killed on an underground train at Edgware Road, said she liked the pillars for their individual characteristics.

“There is one there that appeals to me more than the others because of its imperfections. They’re all individuals,” she said.

“I hugged one of the pillars. There was a coldness about them. The architects said as the day goes on when the sun shines on them they warm up,” she said.

The bombings on July 7 2005, carried out by four Islamists in suicide attacks, was the highest toll from a bombing in the UK since the death of 270 people in the 1988 Pan Am Lockerbie disaster. Around 700 people were also injured in the attack.

Friends and relatives hugged each other and wept as they laid red and white roses on a plaque bearing the names of those killed, as the lunchtime sunshine gave way to a heavy downpour.

For some, the rain and the somber atmosphere of the event were too much to bear.

“I’m from Scotland and there we celebrate the dead. This is a bit too somber,” said a relative of one of the victims, who declined to be named.

“The pillars are a bit stark. Stylistically they don’t convey much about the atrocities or the victims,” he said.

In the four years that have passed since the bombings, some survivors say they are beginning to put the attacks behind them.

Susan Verghese, a 29-year-old teacher from Manchester, who was in London teaching English at the time of the attack, escaped from a train at Russell Square where 26 people were killed when a bomb was detonated inside the carriage.

“I’ve never really had anger for what has happened but I feel it’s time for survivors like me to try and rebuild my life and move on with the things I want to achieve,” she said.

“Now, four years on, you feel very grateful for life and you’ve been given a second chance,” she added.

Editing by Keith Weir

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