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July 7th, 2005: My diary
by Tony Butcher
Issue 6
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I am sitting at my desk and it’s about 6.40am. My boss and I have talked through what we want to be done and I’m getting ready for the day ahead. I’m flying high this morning, I have become an uncle for the first time, as my brother has his first child, and in two years time, to the day, I am going to get married to my beautiful fiancée. The papers are full of London beating Paris and Madrid to the Olympics in 2012 and everyone seems to have a small grin on their face.

The markets open quietly and I begin trying to trade a position we hold in the Short Sterling (UK) market. At around nine o’clock Garry, a colleague, phones to say he’s had to evacuate from Bank underground station because of an incident on the line. This happens all the time in London usually blamed on signal failure, I give my boss a shout and don’t think much of it.

A minute later, we get news on Reuters that explosions have occurred on the underground near King’s Cross and that power surges are to blame. News of more explosions comes through and we begin to get sceptical about the reason given. The market starts to rise as this disruption could have negative effects on the capital’s economy (I should point out our market usually move in the opposite direction to equity markets).

We get small bits of detail for about an hour and the market spikes up a couple of times. The reason for the explosion is absolutely crucial. In Spain, on the day of the Madrid bombing, our markets had massive moves because it was unclear whether ETA or Al Qaeda was to blame. It seems insensitive but it was more or a concern who killed the people rather than how many died.

About 9.50am, we get a phone call from one of the other traders in the office who says he has just seen a bus explode near King’s Cross Station. This changes everything, because before this the market is trading on the belief it could be an accident and that no terrorist influence can be confirmed. I am nervous, can I believe what another trader thinks he’s seen, we have this news before SKY, Reuters or Bloomberg, the three major new wires.

I sat there shocked at what was unfolding in front of me, knowing it was less than a mile away. Then your brain begins to think at speed: can I take advantage of this, am I in danger, is anyone I know hurt or trapped, what is my position in the market and am I about to lose money. I take a small position in the market which will be profitable if James is right about what he saw, then it appears on SKY.

The next hour was a blur; at one point, the UK Short Sterling market moved 30 ticks, the equivalent to a 25 basis point cut by the Bank of England. It was panic, it became very clear it was terrorism and all markets responded. In the office, there were shouts of “Look at the FTSE!”, “Christ! Look at the currency” and “Wow! Look at that bus on TV!” You get a couple of seconds every few minutes to absorb something on TV or listen to our Technical Analyst shouting some information then its back to trading.

As it slowed, people began to consider what had actually happened, the markets retreated a little as traders realised most of the move was overdone. By this time, most of the traders in the office had made their money and were watching the events on TV. We saw the bus that James had seen, ripped open by the blast. People felt different emotions. I only just managed to hold it together at times with so many feelings fighting for control.

The main reaction was anger, in fact it was almost outrage that someone would have the audacity to do this in London the day after we won the Olympics. You begin to think about the people involved, should I be here trading and making money from the tragedy? Is it moral? Or amoral knowing it is wrong but carrying on because it’s what you do for a living. I don’t think the firemen, police or ambulance crews stopped to think. They knew their job and did it superbly well and no doubt reflected later. We all reflected and were horrified at the destruction brought on our own back yard. I can only tell you it was a relief to finally walk through my front door that day.

I saw this poem written by Chris Neal after the attacks. It makes sense of many of the emotions we are feeling.

London Pride

You come to place your bags of hate
On bus and train, you made us late
Yet we’ll be back again tomorrow
We’ll carry on despite our sorrow

Your bags of hate caused some to die
Yet we stride out strong with heads held high
You’ll never win, we will not bow
You can’t defeat us, you don’t know how

This London which we love with pride
Is a town where scum like you can’t hide
Don’t worry we will hunt you down
Then lock you up in name of Crown

We’re London and we’re many races
Just look you’ll see our stoic faces
We all condemn your heinous act
You will not win and that’s a fact

We’ll mourn our dead and shed a tear
But we will not bow to acts of fear
You’re out there somewhere all alone
There’s nowhere now you can call home

Olympics ours we’ve won the race
Your timing then a real disgrace
Our strength you’ll find remains unbowed
We’re London and we’re very proud.

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