My shiny little online spot to help y'all keep track of me while I galavant around London.

Friday, July 08, 2005

London bombings

After the happy-fun times of the past week, coming back to London was a bit hard, even before I left Calgary. Leaving behind family and friends (newly-wed or otherwise) is never easy for me, made more difficult by the fact that I have wicked-awesome family and friends.

Then, at Calgary International, the good folks at Air Canada once again proved their mental incapacities. First, I had to check in on new check-in machines. Replacing people with machines is never a good idea. Never. It might save money, but your customers will hate you. After several minutes of trying to figure out what number on my three sheets full of numbers I needed to type into the hateful machine to get my boarding pass printed, I asked a human. He told me: "it's this one at the bottom of page two." Oh, how silly of me not to realize. Then, the machine (clearly with all the love for humans as, say, a Dalek) tells me the number was not recognized, and that I had to go to the sign with the triangle and ask for help. So I did. The dumb-ass at the triangle sign told me, after waiting in line to talk to her, to go wait in the insanely long line. So we did. Forty minutes later, the first lady, the one who told me to check in at the Daleks, told us we were in the wrong line. Argh!

Eventually, I got checked in, said goodbye to parents, and hopped tearfully onto the plane.

Just over 8 hours later, I landed at Heathrow. Normally, it takes two hours from the plane to New Cross, including getting bagagge and going through customs. Ooh, not this time. I got my bags and passed thru customs quick enough, then started rolling down the underground tunnels to the tube. 15 minutes later, I reached the station, only to be told it was closed. Weird. Very weird. No explanation, either.

So I rumbled back to the train station, bought a £14 ticket, and waited for a train. Ten minutes later, it arrived, I hopped exhaustedly on, and sat down, only to be told by a PA that the train was not going anywhere... because Paddington station was closed for "security reasons." Okay. Right. To the buses.

At this point, I still had no idea what was going on. I got outside, to the bus area, only to see a lineup for tickets of a few hundred people, and cops with machine guns. okaaay. Something was clearly going on. It's scary, when you're stuck at an airport, and there're cops with machine guns, but no one knows what's going on. The announcements weren't any help: "Due to the incidents in London this morning, there are no buses going to central London." Normally, the announcements on the tube or other transit here are pretty blunt: "The Jubilee line is delayed because someone through themselves infront of a tube, and are now stuck in the wheels. The next train to stratford arrives in ten minutes. Sorry for the delay."

So this was very odd, very odd indeed. I heard snatches of people's conversations, about the city being shut down, but nothing about why. It wasn't until I caught a very crowded shuttle bus to a nearby train station and the man sitting next to me (I was standing, while his luggage took up a seat, the wanker) told me his son said some bombs went off in London. This is pretty vauge info. I mean, where? Did anyone die? Was it terrorists, or G8 protesters? So still, not much information.

After taking the train to waterloo, then london bridge, and then New cross, the details were not filled in by announcements or the massive television screens at the stations, but by the two most reliable sources for news updates in the city: the Evening Standard (a newspaper that by this point had already put out several editions with info on the bombings. They're the old-school style newspaper that still hawks on the street, yelling out headlines or putting them on huge signs) and fellow travellers on the trains. Londoners know how to get information. The city is one big cellphone network, and even tho most mobile networks were down in the centre, people were still finding ways to pass information around. Very cool. So between my 40p Standard, and evesdropping on the people next to me, I finally had a good idea what had happened.

Still, when I arrived at my flat, five hours after my plane landed, the first thing I did was turn on the TV, where BBC one was showing constant coverage. Three bombs went off on the tube, and one on a bus. All were in North London, one between Liverpool and Aldgate station (just east of where I work at Ethical Corporation) the next, between King's Cross and Russell Square (the former being where Harry Potter was filmed, and where Nat made Daorcey and I visit) ant the next at Edgware Road station, a ways north of Hyde Park. The bus exploded not far above ground from where the second bomb exploded below ground. I explain where all these places are not because I was anywhere near them at the time, because I was still in the air. But I've been in the these places. It's sort of like how my Dad was supposed to be flying to Denver when September 11 happened. You're a bit closer to it than most people--only a tiny bit--but it hits home (to be cliche, and a bit too accurate) all the more because of it. Just the way most of you knew I was probably still in the air, but worried until you heard from me anyways.

But thanks for all your concern. It is really nice to be cared about, and I got some emails from people I hadn't heard from in a while.

James emailed me a story. He said:

Two years ago, there was a report that a Canadian worker at a Yemen oil compound was shot to death when some crazy worker (not a terrorist, though that was the first thing everyone thought, but rather just an irate Yemenese worker), and we knew a guy, Rob, who was a Canadian working at a Yemen oil compound, but you think, what are the odds that it's him, and it turns out that it was. A depressing story, yes, but the point is if i know someone is in the same country when this sort of things happen, I worry.

I guess it's just people's initial reaction, though with James, even more easy to understand. Even so, when the tsumani hit, my first thought was for Mike, who I'd heard would be in Thailand around then. Sure, north Thailand, not anywhere near the disaster, but you still want to know people you care about are safe. Even now, every email I get, be it from friends, family or work experience employers, begins with the words: "Glad to know you're safe."


Since the attack happened, it's really all people seem to talk about, but again, no surprise. Everyone knows someone who knows someone who was on a tube at that moment, and my flatmate Lucia knows someone who knows someone who's still missing, which is horrifying thought. The police haven't yet released names of the dead, so all those families are still waiting to hear.

The tube reopened in parts today, apparently, tho fewer people than usual took it. The buses, my flatmates tell me, were packed, which is interesting as a bus also blew up. I guess the thought of facing an explosion on the tube, all that distance down, in the dark, is one hell of a lot more frightening than on a bus in the open air and in day light. For the people caught in the explosions in the tube tunnels, I imagine the climb through the smoke-filled tunnel would be even more frightening than the bomb.

If you're looking for more details of the bombings, the BBC's coverage is pretty good. The picture of the bus with the roof torn off is up there, too. (Yet another reason not to sit up-top on double deckers, aside from them making me car-sick and the increased likelihood of being mugged.)

That's all for now. I've heard a rumour Nat has wedding photos up, and I'd like to check them out. More posts to come, likely on this topic, and of course, the wedding, and my York trip from waay back. Tomorrow, I'm getting the hell outta here (but I just got back!) and heading to Dover and Sandwich, where yes folks--I will eat a sandwich.


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