It was me who took the first call about the London Bombs, exactly one year ago today. The first call wasn’t as significant as you might think: it wasn’t like someone shouted “Oh my god, bombs!” and we all leapt into action. The call I took was simply the Fire Brigade saying “We’ve had a report of some kind of explosion – we’d like one ambulance on standby, please”. From then on, it was like a mexican wave – calls about explosions went around the room amongst the usual trickle of Thursday morning calls. A station supervisor from Aldgate was in tears, describing a stream of people with debris in their hair and blood trickling down their faces leaving the station. Paddington Police rang to report a possible train crash at Edgware Road, and recoiled in horror as I told them that we’d been called to two other such incidents. The phones rang hot with hospitals wanting to know whether we would be bombarding them with bomb casualties. Victims rang from the scenes demanding more ambulances; ambulances that had to be sent from every station in London. The resource centre frantically rang everyone who was off work that day and asked them to come in. People in fluorescent coats shouted things about death tolls and numbers of casualties. And behind it all, real life went on. Elderly people with pneumonia had no way of getting to hospital. People called 999 for a broken leg and were turned away. Patients with suspected heart attacks refused help, saying that the ambulances needed to be saved for those in real need. Rumours and speculation abounded. Were there two separate bombs at Russell Square and Kings Cross? Had the trains at Edgware Road collided? Had another bomb been found at Victoria? Had people been killed at Canary Wharf? Had a bus exploded near Euston?

By 10am, a state of organised pandemonium had crept in. I was allowed out for 10 minutes to contact relatives. The first call I made was to my mother, who works near Liverpool Street. She knew nothing about it.

“Are you alright, mother?”
“Why wouldn’t I be, dear?”
“There’s been… things going on… people dead… explosions… bombs!”
“Oh my god! Bombs?!”

It didn’t seem real until I’d said it.

Four months later, I was invited to 10 Downing Street for an Emergency Services Reception for those at work that fateful day. They picked me because I took the first call, which made me feel a bit strange, because everyone on call taking that day did the same thing, and the first call itself was hardly significant. I got to meet the ambulance crews who were on duty that day, and felt truly humble when they told me their stories.

“We got to Aldgate, and there was a woman holding a compress to her face, just sitting quietly,” said one crew. “We lifted up the bandage, and there was her eye, hanging out of its socket, dangling on her cheek”.

In a way I felt I shouldn’t be there at all — I wasn’t in any danger that day, I didn’t see the things the crews did — but I was glad that someone from Control had been selected because we’re so often overlooked. And I got to shake hands with Tony Blair! He muttered something about the great job we all do, and I grinned and nodded like some kind of gibbering idiot. I hobnobbed with MPs and met the driver of The Bus. Some of the crews got a bit squiffy on the laid-on red wine. I was too scared to drink anything in case I behaved inappropriately, and stuck to orange juice. I certainly have something to tell my grandchildren now.

A year on, and life in Nee Naw Control is back to normal. No-one jumps when we get a call from London Underground. We don’t have half the fleet on standby whenever the police find a suspect package. An explosion is just an explosion, perhaps a stink bomb or at worse a match that’s got too close to a gas canister. Others, of course, are not so lucky. Those who were involved or who lost loved ones will never be able to get back to normal.

July 7th, 2006, the morning rush hour, and I’m sitting on a tube train after a heavy night shift, thinking of those people who were doing just the same a year ago, unaware of what was to come. What was it like for them? What went through their minds? Is it my imagination, or does this carriage seem a little more empty than usual? Does that guy have a rucksack?

0853, a year from that fateful first call, and I’m safely tucked up in bed.

Published Jul 07, 2006 - 19 Comments and counting

19 Comments on “July 7th, 2006”
  1. NeeNaw and the 7th of July at Happy Dave - Words, Images, Wonder Says:

    [...] Mark Myers at Neenaw.Co.Uk has a shattering post about working in the London Ambulance Service control room during the bombings last year… [...]

  2. Drunkenspaniel Says:

    Hey Mark. Lovely post today. It puts things into perspective, doesn’t it?

  3. susoolu Says:

    Thank you.

  4. sonitus.org » Blog Archive » July 7th, 2006 Says:

    [...] Nee Naw [...]

  5. Hjorthen Says:

    Great post Mark!

  6. Regular reader Says:

    You write brilliantly – this blog should be made into a book or something. Thanks

  7. Hjorthen uttaler seg om ting han ikke har greie på » Ett år og en dag Says:

    [...] Mark Myers på Nee Naw var den første på London Ambulance Service til å ta imot meldingen om at noe var skjedd på Kings Cross. Hans beretning om dette er blogging på sitt beste, og ga meg lyst til å forsøke å skrive noe vettugt om dette jeg også. [...]

  8. Tim Worstall Says:

    Britblog Roundup #73

    Welcome once again to the Britblog thingie, your list of the poststhat you think should be brought to everyone’s attention. You can make your nominations for next week by emailing the URL to britblog AT gmail DOT com. Just whatever

  9. Rachel Says:

    Thank you for all you and your colleagues did on the day

  10. BridgetJ Says:

    Mark, You make us proud to be EMD’s. You’re right we do get over looked and we don’t see what the crews do but we are part of a very important team, Cheers mate

  11. Spike Says:

    Mark Myers said: Patients with suspected heart attacks refused help, saying that the ambulances needed to be saved for those in real need.

    Good to hear of altruism still going on despite all the fuckwits hurrying to blame ambos and call takers.

  12. Lola Says:

    Brilliant post, very sobering in a way.

  13. Teller Says:

    Hard to believe a year has passed since these awful events, isn’t it? I still remember it like it was yesterday.

  14. Gordonjcp Says:

    I was at work, in the tech support contact centre for a big computer company in Greenock. We handled support for EPOS equipment in companies like Asda, etc.

    So there are a bunch of tickets in my box for clothes shops and chemists, a few of which in London. Heigh-ho, let’s get the ones with the funny accents done first.

    Ring ring… Ring ring… no answer. Hm, ok. I’ll get ‘em later then.

    Busy. Hm, ok, *NEXT*

    Busy. Hm, odd.

    My phone rang. It’s my boss’s boss. “Oh hi, um, can you tell the guys not to send any engineers to calls in (London area group)? We’re pulling all our guys just now.”
    “Oh right, why’s that?”
    “Seen the BBC News website?”

    Ah.

  15. emd Says:

    I thought mark was a males name, this confuses me as the emd who took the first call is certaily a female. Since which she has been named and thanked to no end. Her picture is in the lastes LAS news where she attended the memorial ceremoy. Any emd knows it was this girl who took the first call, she even had tony blair meet her specifically on his visit to ambulance HQ the next day.
    Hummm seems like you like bigging yourself up eh mark? or are you only mark at the weekends?

  16. Mark Myers Says:

    Mark isn’t my real name, but I’m not that girl either. She took some of the most important calls on July 7th, but not the very first one. If you look on the AMPDS logs (which are still available in control) you can see who took the very first one which was to Liverpool Street at 0853 for “? explosion, no further details”. That’s me!

  17. maz Says:

    unfortunately not everything you have said is correct – ambulances were not sent from every station in london! myself and my colleagues sat on our station watching everything unfold on the television in the messroom wondering why we could see surrey, sussex and kent ambulances on screen. what a waste of resources. it was the quietest day i have ever had as an emt. what was i trained for if not to help people who REALLY need it?

  18. emd Says:

    re my last comment aug 29th…

    aaaah, I see. Then why dont you make yourself known and get the recognition and glory that is so rightly yours…. hey *BLEEP*.

  19. Mark Myers Says:

    Heh, you got me… but shhhhhhhh with the name! I’ve been to see Tony Blair which is enough recognition and glory for me thanks :)

    Nee Naw
    Nee Naw was a blog about life in the London Ambulance Service control room. It was written by Suzi Brent from 2005 to 2010. The blog is no longer being updated, but the archives will remain here.
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