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Remembering 7/7

It must have been some of the most surreal 24 hours of my life: 6 July 2005 went by in an excited haze as I found myself handling extraordinarily good news, the day after I was dealing with the worst possible kind - while not knowing if near and dear ones were caught up in the events.

Back then I was a PR, in charge of the media side at Visit Britain's Norway office. 6 July that year it was announced London had won the 2012 Olympics, the next morning four bombs exploded on London's public transport network. Superficially put, the British tourism industry went from a day of celebration to one in shock and mourning - though all those questions about the terrorist attack's impact on tourism I fielded from media on 7/7 seemed to come from far, far away. I had moved my stuff back from London only a few months earlier, and still had half my life there: my ex, friends, former colleagues - all these people I didn't know if were safe. It was as if the floor fell out from under my feet and I had to keep on moving as if nothing had happened.

Luckily, I'm rather good at dealing with such scenarios - it always takes a bit of time for things to really sink in for me, by which time I will often have organised the funeral and written the obit - but I don't think I'd ever had to work harder to keep calm than on 7/7 and in the days that followed. As it turned out, I was very lucky in that none of "mine" where caught up in the events, but the city I had called my home up until very recently was, it hit so close to home, and I've found myself thinking about it quite a bit these last few days, after Jackie Danicki first raised the issue on Facebook.

To think, the evening before I was prepping my boss to go on a popular evening TV-show to talk about the Olympics, accompanying her there, then all hell broke loose the day after. Looking back, I wish we'd had a blog to get information up instantly, our CMS was hopeless, a Twitter account would also have been stellar for getting useful information out quickly- too bad Twitter wasn't invented yet. I only got to introduce blogs and wikis to the organisation the year after, but tools like these do make crisis communication so much easier. And I guess I wish PR didn't have to be "on message" in such scenarios, though, luckily, it didn't fall to us to speculate about the impact on tourism in figures and numbers: it was hardly what I found myself worrying about on 7/7...

If the situation wasn't so tragic, there would have been an excellent parody in it: both the journalist and the PR dealing in what felt like non-essentials. The former asking how it would impact London as a tourist destination before we even knew the number of casualties, the latter trying to put a terrorist attack in perspective, though I was also lucky to have a boss who agreed with me that our number one task was helping people find the right, most up to date information, not trying to make it less than what it actually was - and again, it would have been invaluable to be able to use social media to get that information out there...


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