01 July 2007

Terror in London

Hi guys, to those of you who haven't heard of me yet after the two found car bombs in Piccadilly and the Glasgow Airport incident: I am fine which is probably likely in a city as big as London where you can be in a million of other places when some terrorists decide to attack, except - I happened to be near Piccadilly that night.

Actually, I was on my way home from Lila's in North London Zone 3 to Earl's Court. It was 1pm when I left her place and set out on an odyssee of long night bus rides, only didn't I know then that I would arrive at my place three hours later (the journey should take 1h 20min).
I caught a night bus that would took me to Trafalgar Square from where I had to take the N97, the only bus from there that goes directly to Earl's Court. It is supposed to come every 10min. 25min later, the bus was still not there. An ambulance rushed by. Some minutes later, a police car rushed by. Nothing unusual in Central London at night. I asked the driver of another bus that was parked at my stop if he had heard anything about the N97 on the radio (= german Funk). If for some reason, there is no service tonight. He said no. While I was talking to him, we were interrupted by an announcement on his radio, saying that there was a road closure ahead at Haymarket/Piccadilly due to a security alert. Now, a security alert can be a lot of things. I was not worried. I was fed up though with waiting so I decided to walk a bit along the route to see if the bus maybe took another route and pops up at another stop. I walked through Pall Mall (big parallel street to Piccadilly), saw some police cordon, a few officers and blue light through a side street but thought it was just some crime scene or an early preparation for the Tour de France or the 10km women's run supposed to take place this week and turned into Piccadilly near the Ritz. There is a bus stop right after it where a lot of buses pass by (Green Park). I wait 10 minutes and contemplate whether I should just take another bus that would not take me directly home or hail for a cab. You know, in Central London, there are hardly any benches or opportunities to sit down. I've been on my feet for more than two hours and I couldn't call or text anyone to pass the time while waiting.
Suddenly, clusters of people flocked towards my bus stop. The two guys I had been waiting with at Trafalgar and who had offered me a Ferrero Rocher (that I did not accept) were with them and told me there would be no traffic or buses from "that side". Apparently, some TFL people had informed them.

(for a bigger version of this map go to this link)

I decided to go for the cab. Problem: It was past three or so and for some reason, loads of drunk people (one girl climbed into a waste bin while her friends took a picture of her after she had fallen in like a folding knife) no available cab in sight. I walk around the corner of the Ritz where there is some fancy casino. A guy in a nice suit asks me if I am looking for a cab. I said yes. He takes me to his car. I said, "But this doesn't look like a cab!". He says, it is a minicab. I reply as uninsulting as possible, "I know but I want a black cab" (in London there are two kinds of cabs: black cabs = the classical ones you know from movies, and mini cabs = look like a normal car. Now, mini cabs are cheaper but also, they are riskier when you did not call via a trusted company as anyone could pretend to be a cabdriver). He meant he worked for the casino and I could check his license. I insisted on waiting for a black one. I also turned down the guy parking next to him and thought, where would I find a cab if not at fucking Piccadilly? So I walked down to Piccadilly Circus, even more people crammed at the bus stop right next to the circus. Most of the side streets were closed down (it is a major traffic hub), allowing only a few cars and buses to trickle through. I saw a guy in a white plastic "full body condom", a forensic expert. I still didn't know what the hell was going on and thought, probably some guy got stabbed or killed or whatever right at the Amor statue in the middle of the circus. There was no panic at all, just people leaving the night clubs or being annoyed at having to wait so long for a bus. No-one really had a clue. I decided to hop onto the next bus that remotely passes my place and took the N9 or sth which drives through Kensington Highstreet from where I return home on foot (15 minutes). By then, the sun was rising and the birds were chirping. I finally went to bed after a cup of tea and checking the news. But apart from the security alert and diversion/delays information on the TFL website there was nothing yet on the news.

Next afternoon, I get up and first thing I do, is to check the news. Whatever it was, if only a murder or whatever, if it takes place at Piccadilly, there should be a report somewhere. Google. Hit: Guardian's headline: Two car bombs found. I had half-expected something like this but for some reason, I was not shaken just a bit scared-but-life-goes-on. Maybe because I was not directly in that Tiger Tiger club right in front of which the first car was parked when the police arrived. Maybe because to me, it was not a threat but a nuisance since it held up all the traffic and kept me from going home. I would be more worried if it was sth like a biochemical agent that had been released or if it had actually exploded, the more so in broad daylight (Piccadilly is one of the busiest places in Central London).
I had planned months ago to go to the 7/7 commemoration at either King's Cross or Russell Square station, knowing that this is a potentially dangerous idea. Last year though, they said that there was no additional risk on that day, also when using the tube. I still don't know whether I would take the tube or the bus. I mean, if I'd believe the bus was safer, who says that the terrorists wouldn't think along the same lines? We'll see.

1 courageous comments!:

natascha said...

i'd have taken the ferrero roché. those are soooo good.
glad you're ok and feel so relaxed about it all.