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Friday, July 08, 2005

My report from London - Bombed but not beaten

I ended my last post saying, "At least that is the plan."

Lew Welch once said, "The funny thing about a plan is that that never actually happens."

The plan was to save time by flying into London yesterday morning instead of taking the train and Eurostar via Brussels. Delays are commonplace while traveling, but what happened yesterday was beyond belief.

By 10 a.m. I was on the Stansted Express headed for Liverpool Street Station in Central London (near one of the bombing sites) when news reports started to trickle in about what might be going on. The biggest problem was that no one really knew what was happening; there were as many rumors as valid information flying all around.

First we were told (without being told why) that our train would terminate at Tottenham Hale instead of Liverpool Street. No bother. We could take the Victoria Line into Euston Station, where many of us planned train connections.

Next we were told the London Underground had been completely closed in Zone 1 (most of Central London.) This was a problem. Euston Station is in Zone 1. Someone on the train got a mobile phone call, and shared the discouraging word that the reason for the Underground shutdown was that "bombs are going off all over London." It was at that point that I did begin to feel as if I was on a train headed straight into a war zone.

But not headed that way for long. Our train was stopped at Tottenham Hale (a Zone 3 Victoria Line stop on the tube system), and we were told to go up and over to the other platform. International businessmen who had flown in like me from other parts of Europe were arguing with train personell, worried they would miss their meetings in London. Other people were talking of getting busses. But by now the busses had also been stopped after the bus bomb went off. What about taxis? Reports were coming in that it was taking 3 hours to go one mile.

For all practical purposes, London was closed.

A train arrived going the other way. Where should we go? Back to the airport? No, the airport had been closed too, people were saying. "Where is this train going then?," someone asked. Train personell waved their arms in the general direction of Cambridge and said, "That way. Away from London."

I got on and headed back the way I'd come. A few stops out at Harlow Town I got off and found the last room at the local Travelodge. It was only shortly after 10 a.m. I was on the first train into Central London that had been stopped. Soon thousands of stranded travellers would be getting off trains between London and the airport looking for a place to wait out this chaos.

For the next 8 hours, I watched the bloody mess unfold on live television. Pretty much all channels, all day, the same gory images being shown over and over.

I have more details, but you'll find many in the papers. I can only say it was a very exhausting day. At 1pm I called my parents from the hotel to tell them I was okay. (Remember, it was only 7 a.m. in middle America, and all this had already happened.)

This morning I tried my trek again, and entered Central London by train. Everything seemed to be back to normal other than the fact that Kings Cross Station was still closed (I passed through it, but the doors did not open) and people were a little quieter than usual and looking around a bit as train doors opened, checking out the new passengers who were getting on.

I made it to Wales this afternoon, and it's a beautiful sunny afternoon. I only want to have a few beers and relax before even thinking about moving on with the rest of this rock and roll tour.

Other news, I haven't had the time to catch up on yet. I know that Har Mar had a show in London Wednesday night, so he was likely in Central London as well when all this happened as well.

3 comments:

David Rachac said...

David,

Glad to hear you are OK. At the JoAnna James CD release show, I was thinking that you would have wished to be there. The next morning, after hearing the news, I would have thought that you REALLY wanted to be home. Stay safe.

Norma said...

During the bombs . . .. all I could do was pace the floor with anxiety, as David should be arriving at my home in Wales that day. It was with great relief I finally managed to collect him from Chester station . . 24 hours late . . but so what . . he was safe and in one piece. It was wonderful to have David here at last. Good luck with the rest of your tour David. It was great to spend time with you.
Norma & Gareth

David said...

You know what? I forgot to mention that when we were told to get on the train to go the other way away from London, the train personell were still smiling and cheerful (though firm.) I love this town, and I'm glad I am back here tonight to say goodbye before flying back tomorrow morning. It is an amazing place. And the people, Londoners of all nationalities are phenomenal people. I am honored to have been one of the people riding the tube during rush hour tonight, and again tomorrow as I make my way to Victoria Station to catch the Gatwick Express to the airport for my flight home. More than ever, London feels like home to me. I am so glad my travel plans brought me back through.