Lou Pickney's Online Commentary
The London Attack
July 8, 2005
Michael Goldman, who is a friend of mine who works in same office as I do, sent me this story that his cousin sent him from London this morning. It's his cousin's first-hand account of the London terrorist attacks from yesterday. Only slight edits for clarity and brevity have been made. -Lou
After finally securing the use of the Internet, I am writing to both inform
you of the situation over here and to ease my mind as well. I am apologizing
in advance for anything off color or out of character, but it has been quite
an eventful day here. I hope you take the time to read through this e-mail
and think about everything that I am about to tell you. I know that sometimes
I can be overly dramatic, but it's hard to comprehend certain things until you
are enveloped in them. So, grab a cup of coffee and a snack and make yourself
So after going to the Holland Park Opera last night, which was lovely, I
decided to turn in early and get a good nights rest. Yes, I know I'm like 40,
but it was a new and unique activity for me to do after a rough day at the
office. Around 7:45 this morning I rolled out of bed, did the normal routine
and threw on my iPod for the trek over to the nearest tube station. At this
point everything was normal and I made it onto the Picadilly Line heading up
to King's Cross for my regular commute to work. Now, just so you understand,
the Picadilly Line runs across London on a diagonal from the southwest,
starting at Heathrow Airport going to the northeastern part of London where
most of the commotion took place.
As we came up on Leicester Square, which is the stop right after Picadilly Circus, the train was stopped and put into a "holding pattern" for over a half hour. All the conductor was able to tell us was that there seemed to be a power failure and that we were merely waiting until further notice. It seemed innocent enough so I went on listening to Dave Matthews and reading my David Baldacci book which is only fair so far. After about 35-40 minutes of standing still in between two stations in a pitch black tunnel, we were evacuated out through the conductor's compartment and had to jump across the gap onto the platform. Good times!
Once I reached above ground I figured there was just something wrong with the one line so I walked over to grab the bus up to my office right by the Savoy Hotel near Coven Garden for those familiar with London's geography. The bus driver then informed me that all buses were instructed to return to the yard and that there was a terrorist alert out.
I heard some business man trudge by and caught him blabbing about an explosion somewhere. By this point, the shit had hit the fan and was splattering! Buses were going by and were empty, people were flooding the streets like some kind of parade was about to take place and still no one was sure yet just of what had happened. So, like any other person, I started walking towards what I thought was the direction of South Kensington, the section of London that I'm living in. Apparently, JeffQuest still needs some fine tuning and I was heading towards London Bridge, which was not the best idea. I meandered into an office building and stood next to a group of CEOs and secretaries who had informed that there was an explosion, which I could tell from the headlines on the TV in the lobby.
I figured out the right direction and began what turned out to be a 4 hour walk home in a similar manner to those New Yorkers that walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. Keep in mind that at this point it was 54 degrees out and raining. Not your typical July weather, but then again, this is London. As I was walking down the street I saw high-rise office buildings being emptied and typically chauffeured business men walking aimlessly down the streets as no one knew what was next or what to expect. The cell phone network went down since all facilities were transferred over to the emergency services. I couldn't get a cab for miles. Pay phones got more of a work out than ever, and some people could even be seen crying. When the cell phones finally came back online I called my office and they told me not to come in and just to try and get home safely. Oddly enough, as much as I didn't want to go to work this morning, I would've rather been sitting at my desk playing tetris than be caught in the rain on a street with not one friendly face in site.
The co-worker that I spoke to said that she was in King's Cross station which was where I was headed and only 2 stops away from before the bomb went off that when she finally crawled out from the tracks, there was black everywhere and some people had blood and soot all over their faces. Having realized that if I had squished into the tube before me, I would've been at the station during the blast, I will never ever be on time again. Fair warning to everyone. Whomever I am meeting or wherever I am going, other people can get there first, test the area out and then let me know if it's safe to come.
I also am considering moving to Vermont full time and putting up a mine field on the grounds. Seem like a good idea? So anyways, back to walking. I used my keen sense of direction, aka a map and made my way over to Selfridges Department store, which guided me in the direction of home. At this point I wound up near the American Embassy, which was totally shut down and blocked off from one end of the street to the other. The police were out in riot gear and machine guns. Now, the police didn't even carry hand guns and at this point they had M-16s: shocking. I got the attention of one of the guards and I asked him if the US Embassy is letting any Americans take refuge. The copper/bobby/patrolman said that everyone has fled or been evacuated and I'm on my own. Lovely! What good did registering with the State Department do if I've got no one watching my back? I want a refund on my taxes, ha! He did confirm that it was a terrorist attack and that there had been 3 other train station blasts and one that shredded a bus like parmesan cheese.
Along with tube officials and every other law enforcement person I ran into, I was instructed to literally get out of central London by foot. The interesting part was that I finally found where the American Embassy is located; I've been looking for it since I got here in May. Anyways, I continued to walk towards my flat and got another 50 feet when I ran into my boss in front of the Aston Martin dealership. The first thing I said to him was, "I'll split one w/you and lets get the hell out of here." He said that he was just going to walk out to the 'burbs where he lives and that I should get home safely and enjoy my weekend. At the moment, this appeared to be an interesting concept for me. How the hell was I going to enjoy my weekend after almost being blown up on the other side of the world with no one I knew in sight, no idea of what was next on Aliakbar's schedule of fireworks and no clue if the airports were working? But, I went on. Over the hills and through the woods to Harrods was my next stop. Well, actually the coffee shop next door where I got an iced latte.
After getting served, two seconds later one of the nice ladies behind the
counter told me that I could stay, but they were shutting the doors to prevent
a throng of people piling in. Niiiiiiiice! My Mom made a good point, Harrods
is safe because its owned by Dodi Fayed's dad. Therefore, one Arab ain't
gonna blow up another Arab's bread and butter. Well, after speaking with the
Family and Rachel on my sporadically working mobile phone, I headed out to
Brompton road and hit up the supermarket for some lunch and supplies in case
there was a run on the shops. I took out some cash in case I had to bribe my
way out of the country like in the old days. Just kidding, it was in case the
ATMs went down, which they did for a little while. Then I made it back to my
flat, de-clothed and threw on the news accompanied by a PBJ on wholewheat and
a diet coke sans lemon. No one was back in my flat yet so I figured they were
all at the main campus watching the news and dealing w/the office. I was
correct on that score I found out later. Supposedly everyone in my program is
accounted for and I don't know whether to be honoured or pissed that they
didn't get around to calling me until 3pm because either they were confident
that I was ok or put me at the bottom of the list of priority phone calls.
The next part of finding an internet café was like a treasure hunt with no
clues. Every place was packed and coffee shops with wireless were closing and
sending their employees home. I was kicked out of a half a dozen cafes before
I realized that I should try the school lab because by now the computer rush
should have subsided. I was right and that brings me to my being here right
now. I know I sent out a quick e-mail earlier but I wanted to get all of
these thoughts off my chest and clear my head. Although I saw no smoke in
person and can gladly say that I am unharmed, it is an extremely nerve racking
experience to see the train station you were heading to and 2 stops away from
on tv blown up, being trapped underground for over a half hour, being told
that London is under attack and not knowing what to do and lastly its scary
and makes you pissed to realize that people could get away with this shit.
Pardon my French.
London's mayor got on tv and said that ever since the Madrid bombing it hasn't been a question of IF London will be hit, it was more like WHEN! Well, now we know. Surprisingly the London Police came out in force and have done a decent job of maintaining as much order as possible. The one thing that troubled me was on the news they showed the bus that was blow apart and a man trying to hold his blown off ear on. The scene looked like the one from the movie The Siege with Denzel Washington. Even more horrifying was the shot of the cement wall splattered with what at first appeared to be bullet-pockmarks and after a second or two of focus, more clearly was blood.
Well, I'm going to get something to eat now and try and relax and pack for my trip to Iceland tomorrow. Well, everyone be good and for those that are going to temple tomorrow night, say a prayer of thanks for my life-saving tardiness and a prayer of condolence for the 40+ people that lost their lives.
Lots of Love,
P.S. Keep in touch as I am bringing my laptop to Iceland and can be reachable
there. I am also available on my cell phone should you be so moved and feel
the urge to call me.
P.P.S. If I've let anyone off, I apologize and please forward this to them and
extend my apologies once again.