Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Guest Writer: Laz Farrell

A July Morning

As always my iPod was on as soon as I stepped onto the tube, Brit pop from Oasis mixed with classic 70’s rock from Zep and the Who. I have always felt uncomfortable about the way people are packed onto the trains and buses during rush hour, so music for me elevates any feelings of apprehension. I was travelling on the Central Line at approximately 8:50am from Leyton in the east end of London to Liverpool Street in the city district.
When we arrived at Bethnal Green station the driver made an announcement that we would not be going on to Liverpool Street. The train stopped but didn't open its doors and the driver in a very English way calmly and politely stated that the station ahead had been closed due an emergency situation, Bank station was also closed due to a 'power failure'. My feelings were that something was going on, but the calmness and professional manner of the driver had the right effect and no one appeared nervous just pissed at the possibility of being late for work. I kept myself amused in the meantime by eying up a young brunette and cranking up the volume as Nirvana played in my head. Twenty minutes passed before the doors finally opened as we were told the train would be terminating here and we would have to find alternative transport to get us to our destinations which was greeted with much cussing and dismay. I could walk to work within an hour and there was bound to be several of my co workers having the same difficulties and therefore confirming my excuse for being late again.
I emerged from the underground into the bright July sunshine my earlier feelings of apprehension and that something was wrong now gone despite the unusual sight of hundreds of passengers exiting the tube as I had been caught up in power and line failures enough times as a London commuter to see it as no more of an inconvenience. I switched on my cell only to see the phone network was down so I started off at brisk pace in the direction of the office totally oblivious to the large number of concerned faces and frantic phone calls being made around me as the stones blared out "Sympathy for the Devil."
As I approached my office building the first I noise heard was not the blast, but the constant stream of police and ambulance sirens shortly followed by people crying and screaming in the street from what they had seen. I ran into the buildings reception where staff were crowded around the plasma TV on the wall. The news stream reporting that a third bomb had just exploded on the London underground and another had been detonated on a bus in the west end with many casualties, Police now believed these were possible suicide attacks and the entire transport network was paralysed, The office was shut down and we were told to remain in the building for fear of further blasts and potential attacks. The scariest part was loved ones were travelling throughout London and the phone networks could not reach anyone travelling on the underground but what could we do? Many just stood frantically calling until the network connected for a split second to get that piece of mind, ticking people off their list as they realised they were safe. Reports spread like wild fire through the office of the casualties and what was happening in our capital city and more precisely in Aldgate only a short walk away the scene of one of the attacks.
Once we were allowed to leave the building we followed the thousands of workers amid reports that Kings Cross station had also been bombed and soldiers were on the streets hunting for other potential suicide bombers believed to be on the loose, thankfully this was untrue and we were able to take a long nervous journey home and away from the city on foot like a scene from some Hollywood disaster flick as the entire transport network had been closed. Also, in all this the battery had died on the iPod.
This was unlike the IRA terrorist attacks in the 70s and 80s, which I lived through as a child in London. Then, we received perverse 'warnings' that a bomb was due to go off in a public place, usually reducing the number of possible casualties. This was something different all together. The thought I could be standing next to a complete stranger on the very same train the following Monday morning who would be willing to kill himself and take so many of his fellow citizens with him made for the most nervy journey to work in my life. Needless to say the iPod was fully charged that day.

© Laz Farrell 2010

Laz Farrell is a London-based bored office worker, musician, father, writer/novelist (one day). He blogs at: Six Sentences


  1. Clear writing about such a tragic nightmare. It maybe be fiction here but a real memory to others. Sadly, this story is not over. Great job.

  2. A compelling account from street-level of the forces that shape history. Keep that iPod cranked.

  3. The use of the iPod made personal and therefore even more real the events of that day, and your account brings it home more truthfully. It does of course continue to be remembered ...

  4. Laz, a few years back my husband and I were there two days before this happened. Underground and all around the very same spot. We traveled to London and stayed a day before we took a cruise. When this happened many of the passengers on our ship were from London. Royal Carribean Cruise Line, did a magnificent job helping the Britts, and later the rest of us calm our families. This was a powerful memory you have placed before us. I remember it well.

  5. Music has always been an escape for people and this is an interesting use of it. We often cannot escape our surroundings or our fate, but we can choreograph it.

  6. Like the street view of this - as others have said, the way we use music to create distance. Narrator's voice very calm - as if viewing the situation rather than being immersed in it. A frightening situation none the less!

    Jenny (6S)

  7. ell done and the narration was calm and straightforward. The ipod parts were very interesting and bring into focus the idea what people to do calm their fears. Really well put. There were other interesting glimpses into the narrator's coping mechanisms also, and so the piece painted not only the external events, but the internal ones also. Thinking that it'd not be as bad if everyone was late for work. And looking at the pretty brunette. These are real human responses/reactions to stressors. The piece flowed well and honestly. Interesting side-idea were brought up- ie: the idea that in previous terrorist attacks there were warnings about staying away from certain public places at times. great work with the whole piece.

  8. The narration moved comfortably through the humdrum of daily life to inconvenience, confusion, fear, and lingering unease. I have few opportunities to hear about this kind of event first hand (thankfully), and yours was informative and somewhat haunting.

  9. thanks for the comments
    It was a surreal day for me(I was very hungover also)luckily no one close to me was caught up in the attacks.
    The most frightened I felt was getting backing on the train the following week sober and thinking how much life could change in an instant.

  10. And now you've got many of us looking over our shoulders. Laz, you have made us aware of how scary commuting can become by being given the word. None of us want to experience the fear you have portrayed. It's too close to home.
    But reading about it provides a certain thrill I want to remain in your text and in my mind.


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