Monday, July 10, 2006

OT: That Was The Week That Was...

Phew! Quite a week, last week. Just to recap, I did my first week at Trampoline Systems as a Java guy (more to come on that later), and was ready to round things off nicely with a weekend of climbing in the Peak District. But as I got to Highbury & Islington station at 6pm on Friday, to meet Lisa and the rest of the guys, I was coming out of the WAGN (overground rail) and passing the Victoria Line platform on my right, about 5m away from me, when I saw something out of the corner of my eye, then heard a very loud bang followed instantly by loud screaming and people staggering out of the platform holding their heads and looking shocked.

Now I don't know about you, but if you're on the tube in peak rush hour, on the first anniversary of the July 7th attacks, and you hear a loud bang followed by screaming, you fear the worst. That was my first thought. It was followed very quickly by "but I'm fine, and that bang wasn't big enough to have been a big bomb - maybe a gunshot?"

Then the human sea spilling out of the platform started saying "he went under...he just went under the train..." and I knew what had happened. The bang had been him hitting the train. Someone said "he was pushed!"

Amid all the screams and sobs, the station staff and police - already on a high alert by virtue of the date - were already running down the escalators in droves, and I felt an overwhelming need for fresh air. As I ascended the escalators, I could see more and more police running in, people at the top who had heard the bang and the screams looking deathly pale, not knowing what was going on, one woman halfway down the "down" escalator collapsed in uncontrollable sobbing and trying to crawl back up, people craning their necks to see, others trying to hide their eyes. By the time I got to the top of the escalator I could hear the sirens of police cars and ambulances racing to the scene, and as I stepped out of the station blinking into the sunlight, the rapid putter-putter-putter of incoming helicopters overhead.

It was all a bit crazy. I was shaking and unsteady on my feet, despite nothing "bad" actually happening to me, just that initial fraction of a second as I heard the bang and the screams and my heart leapt into my mouth, and there were many more people worse affected than me. All through the weekend, in quiet moments, if I closed my eyes, I heard that bang followed by the screams, and I saw that distraught woman trying to crawl back up the escalator. Are we really so conditioned into a state of fear that the mere possibility that an attack has taken place can have such a profound effect on us? I thought we were over that by now.

It turns out that the poor guy WAS pushed in front of the train. A 20yr-old man was arrested over the weekend and will go on trail today.


Julian said...

I was on the Silverlink to Camden about an hour later and wondered why it didn't stop at Highbury. Quite shocking - sadly people do jump of their own volition from time to time, but to be pushed... Poor man. And disturbing for you being so close. Hope you're alright.

Alistair Davidson said...

Fine now, thanks. I just can't imagine why anyone would want to do that - I really hope it's not an extension of "Happy Slapping"... I've been standing well back from the platform edge ever since

jannah said...

I was on the first section of the train that hit that poor guy, going home from work and the memory of that day will not leave me ever I think. I am not sure about the bang because the first thing that I rememer on entering the station was the loud screaming of many people and the confusion, I heard the screaming before I saw the platform and saw a large group of people surging backwards, at first I thought teenagers or drunks, it being Friday evening. As I looked around their was a confused worried look on everyone's faces, the train was packed and hot from all the close packed bodies, as the train came to a stop they turned the electricity off and the lights went out, it was quiet apart from a child crying and the mother? Maybe, trying to sooth the child, people were sweating and starting to mutter quietly. We saw all the people leaving as an announcement in the station told them to leave the platform, no-one spoke to us, we just stayed there in the hot darkness, sweating, scared and confused. A woman's voice could e heard from the platform at the other end of the train, she was calling for help, asking why no-one was doing anything, and walking down the train I seem to rememer her calling hello towards the bottom of the train, many of us didn't know someone had gone under. A man near me said that he saw the train hit what I'm sure I remember him saying was a girl, and her going down. I was starting to think is this how the jews felt on the trains the nazis put them on to go to the concentration camps, overcrowded, hot and scared, not knowing what was happening etc, funny thoughts go through your head when you're in shock! The lady on the platform came towards us and banged on the window, shouting let them out and went and talked to the drivershe came back to the door and bythen there was police on the platform and they managed to open the doors, we were told to leave the station and the police were asking for witnesses, there were police looking under the train and firemen running down the stairs, upstairs therepeople to the side, witnesses talking to police, people crying, so many people spilling on to the streets, talking on their mobiles, shocked, some crying, others trying to get to the station not realising it was closed or what had happened, I walked for a long time to the next station, I felt very odd, I think I was in shock, it was like walking out of a bad accident or something, I picked up blisters along the way and it took me two hours to get home, all the transport was overloaded because they stopped the victoria line. I read about what happened the next day and found out it was a man who was pushed, I felt so sorry for that poor guy and I realised the screaming and the people moving backward from the train was probably the fear of the people who maybe thought they may be next. Now I think about his family, they had to come over from Ireland to identify the body. I'm nervous on the underground and I don't like to stand near the edge, I also don't like it when someone stands behind me. Today one week later coming home they stopped the victoria line again and again it took me two hours to get home, and while they were announcing this they also said that someone had gone under a central line train. Oh and last Friday, it being the anniversary of the bombings, another thing I can't forget, I was on the piccadilly line going through Kings cross station 25 minutes before the bombs going off, it not only sticks with me, that it could so easily have been me that died that day, but I remember the panic of the guests of the hotel I was working in, but also those who I was working with and my own fear, for loved ones that we couldn't contact as the mobile phone networks were overloaded, and in between we were having to serve the guests and try to calm them, it was so busy, when all we really wanted was to keep trying to contact our families, husbands wives