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Posted Date: 7/13/2004

A 'sense of shock and sadness'

After the July 7 terrorist attacks on London Underground trains and a bus, Class of 1980 officers sent words of concern and encouragement to classmates who live in London. A few wrote back to Class Secretary Marc Fisher with accounts of their experience of that horrific day. Their accounts, as well as those of other Princeton alumni, are presented below:

Get off the bus, NOW'

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 1986), 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 .

Ten 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 five minutes' journey from where Bruce and Scotti 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 asked, What do you suggest we do now? A walk in the park would not be a bad idea, the man 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. Jody 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 sixth-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 p.m. 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.

PAUL JUDGE '80
London

It was a tense day'

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.

DAVID CURTIN '80
General Counsel, Aspen Re
London

Not far from the bomb blasts'

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.

DANNY QUAH '80
Professor of Economics,
London School of Economics

On vacation: Most people just walked

My family and I happened to be in London on vacation on the day of the terrorist attacks.  We were there from July 2 through July 9.  The attack was on Thursday, July 7.  We were planning to board a subway from West Kensington to Westminster to visit Westminster Abbey and then on to Stonehenge in the afternoon.  We just finished breakfast shortly after 9 a.m. in our hotel and walked about five minutes to the subway station.  When we first arrived there, there was a crowd of people outside the entrance to the station and the gates to the station were closed.  An official told us that there was either a power outage or some explosions in the subway somewhere and that the entire subway system was being shut down.  He told everyone to get on buses.  We left the station and proceeded down Cromwell Street , planning to catch a bus, but all the buses were packed with people.  We continued to walk, eventually arriving at Victoria and Albert's Museum, and later went to Harrods for some shopping.

News was filtering in that there were actually several explosions in the subway system, and it was beginning to sound like a coordinated terrorist attack.  The entire bus system was shut down, and we found out later that it was due to an explosion onboard a bus.  Therefore, for most of Thursday, the entire public transportation system in London was shut down.  Many people could not report for work, so some restaurants and shops were being shut down.  Taxis were in high demand and certainly overloaded.  Most people just walked.  We returned to our hotel fairly early and just watched the news.  There were police and ambulance sirens heard around the city all day. 

JAMES TANG '70
Houston
, Texas