LONDON has shown “strength and solidarity in the face of adversity” in recent months, and will continue to do so as its people respond to new threats, the Bishop of Kensington, Dr Graham Tomlin, has said in the wake of a bungled terrorist attack in Parsons Green underground station.
A bucket containing explosives, and covered in a shopping bag, burst into flames behind the door of a stationary District Line train at Parsons Green underground station, at 8.20 a.m. last Friday, sending a sheet of flame down the carriages, which were packed with commuters and children.
No one was killed, although 29 people were injured, including a 13-year-old boy. It was later discovered that the improvised device had failed to detonate properly. Had it done so, it would have caused a much greater and almost certainly fatal explosion.
Armed police, paramedics, firefighters, and specialist forensic teams arrived at the scene as hundreds of people attempted to leave the smoke-filled train. Several witnesses reported people, including a pregnant woman, being crushed underfoot.
St Dionis’s, Parsons Green, sheltered the injured in the immediate aftermath, and has been providing a quiet space for anyone affected by the incident. The Vicar, the Revd Tim Stilwell, said: “I was in my study when the succession of emergency service sirens drew me outside. It was obviously a major incident, right on our doorstep.”
A wedding that was to take place on Saturday at the church, which was within the police cordon, was relocated to the adjacent parish church, All Saints’, Fulham.
“I quickly realised, in consultation with the police officers, that there was no way we were going to be able to break the cordon and hold it in St Dionis’s. All Saints’ came to the rescue, and the registry — we had to seek a special license for permission to register the marriage at All Saints’ — swung into speedy action.
“It was quite stressful at times, trying to secure all the necessary paperwork for the special licence with the clock ticking, but the couple were extremely understanding.”
Dr Tomlin said: “The two churches are of a very different tradition, and it was great to see them working together in such strong co-operative way. The wedding went ahead that afternoon, and worked out very well.”
Pupils at Lady Margaret School, a Church of England academy opposite the tube station, were also shaken by the incident. “The staff there were excellent,” Dr Tomlin said, “providing support for some quite frightened young girls, and ensuring they were counted in safely, and let home early later that day.”
Faith communities were often the first responders in difficult circumstances, Dr Tomlin said, referring to his involvement in the response to the Grenfell Tower fire in June (News, 16 June). “They were two very different incidents, but they had one thing in common: both had Church of England parish churches close by, which were able to respond very quickly in a crisis.
“It is important that faith communities do what they can to ensure that attempts to divide communities do not succeed. It has been good to see, both in North Kensington and in Parsons Green, that it has not led to tensions between faith communities.”
The police have arrested five men in connection with the attack.