London Mayor Ken Livingstone laid a wreath outside the city's Kings Cross rail station today to commemorate the moment a year ago when the first suicide bombers in western Europe killed 52 people along with themselves in coordinated attacks on the transit system.
LONDON Britain fell silent Friday on the first anniversary of the suicide bombing assault on London's transit system a stunning strike that killed 52 commuters and wounded more than 700 in the country's deadliest attack since World War II.
Prime Minister Tony Blair, survivors and city workers bowed their heads during two minutes of national silence observed from the Wimbledon tennis tournament to Scotland, a quiet punctuated by the solemn tolling of bells at St. Paul's Cathedral in the heart of London.
Mourners carried flowers and candles to makeshift shrines near the sites of the four bomb blasts. Reflecting the widespread feeling of unease that grips London, one person left a small note that read: "We will never forget."
"This is a time when our country unites across all races, religions and divides and stands in solidarity with all those who have suffered so much, in sympathy with them and in defense of the values which we share," Blair said at Fire Brigade headquarters.
Relatives of the dead gathered later for a tearful private ceremony at Regent's Park, some reading poems to honor their loves ones. Names of all the victims were read one by one as many in the crowd wept and people lined up to place yellow flowers in a mosaic memorial.
Britain had not seen a major terror strike since 1974, when the Irish Republican Army set off bombs outside two pubs in Birmingham, killing 21 people.
The Sept. 11 terror strikes on U.S. soil ushered in a new era in terrorism in the West: the 2004 Madrid train bombings, the slaying of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh by an Islamic radical, the carnage in the heart of the British capital.
The terrorism has led many to wonder whether, in the post-Cold War era, the world is gripped by another clash of civilizations one in which the values of Western liberal democracies are in irreconcilable conflict with those of militant Islam, whose adherents are growing in numbers across Europe.
For Londoners, the attacks have shaken but not entirely overturned a conviction that the two cultures can coincide peacefully in the vibrant multicultural capital that is their home. Still, the background of the bombers came as a shock to Britons: The four bombers were all British citizens raised in northern England. Three were of Pakistani descent and the other was a Jamaica-born convert to Islam.
"Today is a very sad day," said Paul Dadge, a computer technician who was pictured in newspapers around the world leading a bandaged survivor from the wreckage last year. "It is also a day to mark those people who lost loved ones and the survivors."
Residents woke to the sound of police helicopters hovering over the city Friday as some Londoners made a determined effort to continue their daily routine.
But at the same time, a sense of mourning descended on the city as well as apprehension at the knowledge that any repeat attacks had the potential to devastate the precarious security that the affluent, cosmopolitan city has regained.
Buses and subway cars were standing-room only during the morning rush hour. But the atmosphere on the Underground was tense and subdued, as the city was reminded of the 52 people who never made it to their destinations last July 7.
Memorial plaques were unveiled at each of the three Underground stations affected by the attacks.
Flowers also were laid at Aldgate station, the site of the first blast, when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at 8:50 a.m., killing seven people. Candles were lit at the Edgware Road where a bomb exploded minutes later, killing six, and between Russell Square and King's Cross where a third bomb killed 26.
One of the most striking images of the July 7 attacks was the fourth blast that killed 13 people and ripped apart a No. 30 bus near Tavistock Square.
"I can remember exactly what I was doing this time last year. Everything was all normal and then suddenly, it was not. People were going about their normal daily business and then bombs were going off," said Angelina Alcorn, 26, a nurse at University College Hospital who helped many of the injured from the final bomb.
"I will never forget the image of that bus. It is stuck in my mind," Alcorn said.