Terror Hits London: The View from '80 Classmates
A few days after the London terrorist attacks, class officers sent a few words of concern and encouragement to our classmates who live in London. A few wrote back to Class Secretary Marc Fisher with accounts of their experience of that horrific day.
From David Curtin
Thank you for your thoughts. My wife and I are both fine. Weirdly, we had a lot of things to bring into work that day and took a cab instead of the Tube. Normally our route would have taken us through two of the affected stations. It was a tense day, though, as we tried to account for our friends (all fine).
Those of us who have been in London for a while are a bit more used to the increased police presence, etc., having gone through this with other bombing campaigns. Still, it is never pleasant and you can only feel for the victims and their families and be more determined to spend more time with our own family and friends.
On a happier note, to all of the Class officers, a huge thank you for all the work done on reunions this year. I hadn't been back since the 10th and I had a tremendous time. Even my wife (Balliol, Oxford)
enjoyed it and has developed a disturbing tendency to wear her new Princeton t-shirt.
All the best,
From Paul Judge
Thanks for your good wishes. We are all safe and sound. I arrived at work by tube a few minutes after the first attacks, having passed through King's Cross on the Northern line about 10 minutes prior to the explosion in that vicinity. Within an hour, the phones went down and mobile networks were suspended, so Jody and I were in touch by email: Hannah, our 15-year-old, happened to be home in the morning due to her school schedule. Jody fetched our two younger daughters, Abigail and Kate around noon, and they headed out to Hampstead Heath, which seemed a good and green place to be.
Our biggest source of anxiety and concern was for my brother, Bruce, and his wife Scotti (both Princeton class of '86), who were visiting us. Unbeknownst to me, Bruce had already headed in to central London early that morning to try to get tickets for the two of us to see Henry IV at the National Theatre, planning to queue up at 7 a.m. The show was not being performed that night, so he came back again to Hampstead, passing right through central London. I was on my way to work when Bruce arrived back in Hampstead. The news was very spotty for the first few hours, with reports of power surges on the tube lines where the explosions had actually occurred, and Bruce and Scotti left again around 9:30 from our
house together to do some shopping, leaving their three children with Jody.
The tube lines were already shut down when they walked the five minutes from our house to Hampstead tube station, so they got on a very crowded bus headed to central London. 10 minutes later, they were approaching King's Cross, where one of the worst underground attacks was already causing panic, with police and emergency vehicles converging on the area. A man in a suit standing a few feet in front of them on the bus was speaking on his mobile phone and must have learned from a friend that the bus explosion had just taken place in Tavistock Square, about 5 minutes journey from where B & S were at the time. He turned to them,caught Bruce's eye, and said, "Get off the bus, NOW." Bruce was perplexed but the man was insistent, so he and Scotti followed the guy out through the throng of people, and onto the pavement, where the man explained there had been an explosion on a bus. Bruce said, "What do you suggest we do now?" "A walk in the park would not be a bad idea," he said with a smile. And he set off
for his office.
Bruce and Scotti actually found a cab, remarkably, and took it back to Hampstead. Jode immediately alerted me that they were home, but it was very frightening for us until we knew they were back safely.
In central London, we were being told to stay in our building, just east of Trafalgar Square -- and also to stay away from the windows. The traffic, normally a constant rumbling undertone along the Strand, quickly slowed to a trickle as police closed roads, but the sound of sirens was nearly continuous. We have a clear view of Trafalgar Square from the west side of the office, and many people gathered in offices there in a grim vigil, trying to determine what was going on. Lots of people still moving through the streets on foot, at this point. People in the office tried to work, but most ended up in the 6th floor lounge at noon to watch Tony Blair on the television. The mood in the room matched Blair's demeanour: grim, steady, not prepared yet to say it's over, the worst is behind us, at least on this day. So reminiscent of the scene in the office of Fast Company magazine, where I stood with colleagues on 9/11 and watched the horror unfold--although this attack was not televised live, of course, and people were not driven to tears by shock and fear.
I ended up borrowing a bike from one of the people in the office around 4:30 and riding home. It was an amazing scene: traffic was much reduced, and thousands upon thousands of people were moving quietly out of the city on sidewalks. Ordinarily, on a sun-dappled July afternoon, the pubs along the way would have been filled, with people spilling on to the pavements, but the mood was very subdued, people seemed intent on getting home. My route took me up through Russell Square, which was closed and a large area around it cordoned off as police continued to work over the location where the bus blew up. Curious people gathered at the barriers, talking quietly with policemen, and just staring up the road. The
usual gaggle of TV trucks with telescopic antennae were clustered along the side streets, but even these had an uncharacteristically sober mien: I happened to stop at one of the trucks to ask if they had a wrench so I could adjust the height of the bike seat, and the engineers inside turned away from their screens to try to help, and were quietly apologetic when they couldn't produce a tool.
I happened to be in New York less than a week after 9/11, when it was still possible to get quite close to the twin towers. The sense of carnage there was of course horrific on a scale far beyond what happened here--I remember the intensely acrid smell that I imagined was smouldering concrete pervading the subway car as we neared the Chambers Street station--but the sense of shock and sadness was palpably
the same. The people here seemed already quite determined to go on, as you would expect.
So, as you can tell, we're still processing the awful events of the day, but thankful that we are secure.
From Danny Quah
Thanks for the kind message and for your thoughts. The London School of Economics -- where I work -- is in the West End, not far from the bomb blasts. Pretty much everyone I know comes to work through either Kings Cross or Liverpool Street Stations, where two of the four explosions took place. By good luck, I am physically unharmed; my family and I live in the suburbs about 20 miles out. My train coming in that morning was first delayed, but then went right through Kings Cross station.
As you yourself well know, sirens still go off here in the heart of the city and helicopters
fly noisily overhead.