Saturday, July 09, 2005

What a difference a day makes

What a surreal day! I arrived at Victoria Station at around 9:30 on my way to meet my niece. There was a constant beep (like a truck backing up) and the gates to the tube were closed. Police were saying there was a power problem on the tube. People wre milling around, most with cell phones trying to contact people. I had to try to reach my niece and my first thought was also to try to get a bus. Getting through to anyone was a challenge as the whole of London was trying to use telephones. As I was on the phone I heard the announcement that all buses were not running as well as the tube. This was not a power surge! I only managed to send a voice mail to my niece and then decided to try to find an Internet cafe. When I asked a shopkeeper for directions she asked if it was true there had been bombs on the tube. The G8 - of course it was the perfect time for idiots to target London.

Went back to the B&B and found out about an Internet cafe further from Victoria Station. Who wants to be near a target? Walked there and e-mailed home. Susie had already e-mailed me with information so at least I was able to get in touch with her.

It's hard to be alone in a city in chaos. While my B&B was quite nice, I had no phone and felt quite isolated. The proprietor let me use her phone, but I still was not able to reach anyone. Watched the news for a while. Unbeknownst to me Tendi had come to the B&B, but the doorbell wasn't working and she waited around, probably not more than 10' from where I was watching TV. I am very pround of my niece. She is a St. John's Ambulance volunteer. All volunteers were called up so she went to Hyde Park and later to Paddington Station.

At around 1:00 I realized I should eat and walked to Victoria Station because I could pick up some healthy food at Sainsbury's. The station was shut tight. Police were everywhere and people were hanging about outside int he rain, talking on mobiles, aurrounded by luggage. Back I went towards the B&B, tried calling again to no avail and then back to the Internet cafe. Another message from Susie telling me Tendi was going to my place (too late!) but I raced back just in case. A short while later, Susie arrived. She had cycled in from Richmond. I was in no danger, but it was such a relief to see someone I knew - not to be alone.

The rain had stopped and Susie and I went to a hotel for lunch (it was now 3:00.). We passed the station on the way and it was still closed. Somehow sunshine makes things feel better (as does food). We lingered over lunch with many phone calls from Gervase and Tendi. Both kept us informed as to what was happening. Tendi was able to hear the police radio from her vantage point, so we had up to date information. By the tiem we left the hotel, some buses were running and Victoria Station was open. The plan was that I would go back to Richmond and spend the night there. Gervase met us (Vicoria Station was once again closed only to be opened again a short while later) We walked to the station to get a train - an overland train, not the tube. It was eerie. There were few people in the station, which is normally buzzing with activity.There was barely a queue for tickets and we were able to catch a train quickly (with suitcases, Susie's bike..) to Clapham Junction and then quickly got another train to Richmond. What a relief to be out of the centre of London.

I was drained from doing nothing. I cannont imagine those who experienced the terror. Susie worked for many years at the Institute of Education and now works near there. Both are near the Russel Square Staion. Six of her former colleagues were caught in tube trains. Fortunately none sustained more than surface injuries. Her good friend got a phone call from one of them and she went down to see if she could help. She spent the day helping out the injured. What courage.

So that's how I spent my day - not eventful, but feeling helpless.


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