We went to St Paul’s for the two-minute silence at the suggestion of one of the office admin people. We started making our way there at 11.50, talking quietly about the depth of feeling brought about by 9/11. According to one colleague, the crowds attending the service brought traffic to a standstill. This time around it looked like any other Thursday lunchtime. People were walking purposely to and fro, the traffic thundered, inches from the pavement, and tourist bus commentaries blathered away in the sunshine.
As we approached St Paul’s we noticed a crowd of people, ranged solemnly on the steps. We turned around to look down the hill, and saw hundreds of people in office shirts, walking towards the church. As we stood about, we noticed that nobody was really talking. There were pockets of quiet chatter here and there, but most people were silent. The bells began tolling at about 11.55 and didn’t stop until midday. It was like somebody had taken London’s volume button and turned it right down. The silence was deafening. Everything stopped: the traffic, the phones, the planes, the usual clamour of thousands of voices trying to make themselves heard. The only sound was the great bell of St Paul’s tolling the hour. I tuned into the bell and tried to think pious thoughts, but I found myself wondering at being able for the first time in my life to hear the cathedral rafters creaking as the bell swung to and fro.
For two minutes London wasn’t a bustling metropolis, filled with millions of lives and zillions of thoughts battling for space. It was just us. Our silence proclaimed us as London: defiant, calm and unafraid.