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Report from London

I was in the tube when the third bomb hit.

By Jhenifer Pabillano 7 Jul 2005 | TheTyee.ca

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I got on a District line train in southwest London this morning, and tried to make it to work in half an hour. I was running late, so I got on at 9:15 am, which turned out to be just around the time the third bomb hit.

Just as I sat down, the driver made an uncertain announcement, "I'm sorry, but could everyone get off the train. They're telling me there's been a massive electrical failure near Tower Hill, and all the trains are stopped." Then, "Hang on, hang on." The crowd grumbled, and then he came back. "Sorry, yes, we'll have to detrain here. I'm very sorry about this."

I got off and ran for the bus stop. Luckily, I caught one and headed on the way to work in the center of London. I could hear mutterings about bombs from people on cell phones on the bus. I didn't know if these bomb rumors were true or not -- an electrical failure seemed much more likely. I could see a girl on the phone react to something she heard and get off the bus immediately. Fifteen minutes later, the bus stopped and the conductor hollered, "Everybody off!"

I was almost halfway from work, at an area near Buckingham Palace. So I did what everybody else seems to have done -- I walked for 30 minutes to get where I needed to go. On the way to there the streets were crowded, with throngs of people at the bus stops waiting for a ride into town. They hadn't given up yet. I tried to call my sister and the office on the way and the cell phone networks were all down. I could see other people doing the same thing to no avail.

'That's when I realized'

Before I got to work, I stopped to buy a sandwich at a local supermarket (I was late, so obviously didn't have breakfast). I asked the cashier what was happening outside. She told me about the bombings and said that all the staff at the market were out watching the news on the TV. That's when I realized what had happened.

I felt shocked. It was just yesterday that I helped cover the Olympic bid, doing small interviews at Trafalgar Square. Then, everything seemed very hopeful. Now, the mood's turned 180-degrees.

Down to business

Hardly anyone was at work when I arrived as London's transportation was largely shut-down. But as soon as people arrived, they each got down to business right away.

There were no panics and no chaos when the explosions happened, and people worked their way around the transit closures in an orderly fashion. The tube hasn't always been the most reliable of institutions, so everyone probably already knew what they had to do, calmly but quickly.

It's now night time. London seems very quiet.

It was sunny all day, which was lucky for the thousands walking home. It's raining now, and it seems somehow fitting -- like there's some kind of sympathy in the universe for what's going on down here.

Jhenifer Pabiliano is on staff at The Tyee and is working for the CBC in London this summer.  [Tyee]

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