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The London bombings… from Swindon, 80 miles away

The London bombings… from Swindon, 80 miles away

Not perhaps the best day for me to forget my mobile phone before making an early morning trip to London…

The train stopped at Swindon (80 miles from London) when we were told that there had been a “major incident” in London, and we were heavily advised to get out at Swindon. A girl, on the phone to someone, then shouted out that there’d been an explosion at Liverpool Street Station, and that’s when we calmly decided to leave the train.

While I was waiting for a payphone to call friends, people were behind me asking about the next train to London. There was very little information about what was going on, so I boarded a train heading back to Cardiff – only for that train to be evacuated.

Then from seemingly nowhere, a stream of railway and police staff arrived (they’re never around when you want one normally!) and Swindon railway station was slowly evacuated. Past signs saying “All tube and train services in London cancelled”, and then flicking to “Congratulations to London for winning the 2012 Olympics”.

Thus I ended up knocking on a pub across the road and asking if they had a TV set. People gradually came into the pub and we were all watching BBC News 24 – with BBC journalists asking American tourists how they’d conduct the rest of their holiday – when we realised that everyone had been evacuated well away from Swindon station, and a bomb disposal team had been called in. But hey, we were all in a pub, so that was ok. Gallows humour, and a couple of pints while watching the news. We saw images of the blown-up bus, but it never entered my head that there would be major casualties on that bus.

Then the police came in, and asked if anyone could claim ownership of a Marks’n’Spencers carrier bag with two brown packages and a washbag. Alas, no. So we were then also evacuated away from the pub and 500m further down the street, being told that there would be a controlled explosion soon.

Then I needed the toilet – but given the security situation, all the office buildings in the area were on a lockdown. Unless you happen to have a work pass – which came in very handy!

Got back to see three GWR FM “journalists” huddled in a corner, talking to each other. I say “journalists” in speech marks because then there was the controlled explosion – with policemen hiding behind buildings and telling everyone to stay away from windows – and they didn’t even notice.

Then a bus came to get us all back to Bristol, then the train to Cardiff and to my mobile phone to find lots of messages from anguished people. I can only apologise. Sorry.

The day didn’t seem particularly serious while I was in Swindon, or in transit to Cardiff (no casualty figures had been announced). But I got back to work to find news reports of 30+ dead and terrible eyewitness reports. Sad, but then compared to 191 dead in the Madrid train attacks on 11 March 2004, it seems like London (touch wood) got off very lightly.

But I saw no panic – everyone was very calm indeed. I have no idea where all the train staff suddenly swam in from but they were all very
calm, collected and gave as much information as they could.

Here’s a couple of eyewitness accounts, plus more from BBC News and Flickr.

And to be utterly British about, a blogger snaps when her local pub (one I’ve frequented) is closed because of the “binge on terror” while Gia has a singularly British reaction – she just tuts a lot.

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