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07/07

I remember a particular summer many years ago, when my Dad was still alive.

The sunlight on the grass, and the hood of our little white car, and my tall father all in white getting out. I'm sitting on the stone steps leading up to the balcony and watching and knowing that something is wrong but not being able to put a name to it yet.

Later the wrong has a name, snake, but in the interim it's just a flash of brown in the grass. My father about to step on it because he doesn't see it. Someone's scream stops him. Not mine, my grandmother's perhaps.

The air around us still as glass. The snake sliding harmlessly away.
The feeling I don't have a name for, about how differently things could have been had the scream come a split-second later. How close we walked to danger.

Another tale, another moment, a snapshot of a war.
Not a memory because I didn't see it, but nonetheless as vivid in my mind.

It's Sarajevo. The 1990s. People are queing for bread, and two neighbours meet, exchange words, courtesies. One says to the other: "Oh don't worry, I'm going to be queing anyway. I'll just pick up bread for you too. You go home and have a rest, you can queue for me next time". A brushing of hands. A bag handed over. Smiles exchanged in the doorway, perhaps.

The man queing. Sunlight on cobblestones and the bomb that exploded which nobody foresaw and killed all the people in that queue, just like that. His wife, [my friend's grandmother] watching it all from the window.

Those are some of the things I thought of today.

Countless incidents, accidents of fate. The woman who ran for the bus and missed it only to see its top half explode a minute later. The people stuck in the train behind the train which blew up.

How suddenly the fabric of the world changes. The accidents that lead us to or from danger. The strings of coincidences which determine whether we live or die.


I was on a bus to Kings Cross this morning. The bombs had gone off by then although I didn't know. Just the rushing of fire trucks and police cars and sirens and roads blocked off. I just figured it was a bad traffic accident and with a string of curses [for transport in London does suck plenty, and it's not unusual to have disruptions] turned around and set back trying to work out how to get to my work. I only started to get clued in when I got a text message inquiring over my welfare, when my sister rang to see if I was still alive.

I got into the office at 11, having walked most of the way, which was a brave but wasted effort because we all had to close down the service at noon and evacuate at 1. The nerves had hit me by then, along with the enormity of what had happened. So I did the British Yugoslav thing and had a cup of tea and a cigarette while I let things sink in.

It was still early when people were confused and the exploding trains were put down to *power surges* which is bullshit because power surges don't happen five minutes apart on lots of different locations and then by synchronicity blow up buses too.

This is the reason why I use the underground as rarely as possible. Because I can't stand the idea of being in the tunnels, so far below the light and air. Trapped there, whizzing in cans of steel. Scary enough even when nothing is wrong.

I was shaken with the knowledge of what happened to people there. Not many casualties, not right away, but it's just as bad to be injured to discover limbs blown off. Bad too to have carriages filled with the stinging smoke, to not be able to breathe, to be smashing tube windows to get oxygen. Bad to have to walk along the tube tracks, through the tunnels and see bodies and not know if they're alive and when you'll make it back to the surface and air.

I know what smoke tastes like. I remember fire, being in fires. Not being able to breathe. How it stings the eyes and the throat. I wouldn't have liked to be in those trains, in the tunnels. I'm alive, but it could have been me, because it was people just like me. Regular people, going to work, that's all.

And the lines between us are blurred. I know the taste of smoke, though i didn't taste it today. I know the feeling of fear, though today I wasn't scared for myself. And my heart goes out to everyone who experienced the stress firsthand today, not to mention those that got injured, or died.

It's a miracle that there wasn't a greater loss of life. But it doesn't make injuries less devastating, it doesn't make what happened less traumatic or shocking.
It doesn't take away the fact that people are going to have to use the trains tomorrow, descend into the same underground to get to work, again.
Of course we will. We get on with it. People are resilient and Brits don't seem given to hysteria.

I must say, I'm proud of Britain and Londoners today. The emergency services reacted promptly, they were on the site in five minutes, everything was well organised and the victims were given good care.

I am proud of everyone who was obviously stressed and shaken but not hysterical. Who stayed as collected as possible in the circumstances, who will doubtless carry on stoutly in the days to come.

I am proud of all the people who have emphasised the importance of Muslim culture and people, how they are a part of this community and our country and defused any tensions. [That wouldn't have happeend in Belgrade, there would have been vigilante reprisals before the blink of an eye].

Everyone I know seems to be OK. I am grateful for that, and many other mercies.

Comments

( 39 comments — Leave a comment )
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67threnody
Jul. 8th, 2005 12:26 am (UTC)
Damn, Nina....

beautiful.

I'm so glad you're safe. Scared for what could have been.
rainsinger
Jul. 9th, 2005 08:01 pm (UTC)
Thank you :)
I've been blessing the full complement of my limbs ever since... :)
(Deleted comment)
rainsinger
Jul. 9th, 2005 08:03 pm (UTC)
Yes, it wasn't dissimilar.
Let's hope that's the end of it...for both countries :)
lillfive5
Jul. 8th, 2005 12:34 am (UTC)
I thought of you all day. I'm extremely glad to see your writing and that you are safe.

rainsinger
Jul. 9th, 2005 08:04 pm (UTC)
Thank you :)

I'm all right. Thursday I was all shook up but now it's all faded, and everyone else seems to be carrying on as normal.
mzwyndi
Jul. 8th, 2005 12:39 am (UTC)
*hug*

You truly live a charmed life.

***hug***

You've been on my mind all day.
rainsinger
Jul. 9th, 2005 08:05 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the nice thoughts :)

Hehehehe, I am indeed lucky. I dread to think of what would ever happen if my Guardian Angel took early retirment.
feath
Jul. 8th, 2005 12:42 am (UTC)
I am very glad you missed your usual train!!
rainsinger
Jul. 9th, 2005 08:05 pm (UTC)
Me too.
Self's lack of punctuality is now celebrated as a survival skill :D
concordantnexus
Jul. 8th, 2005 01:12 am (UTC)
{hugs}

Sweetie, you're amazing! :)
rainsinger
Jul. 9th, 2005 08:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you :)

Although I wasn't really in much danger, so I'm less amazing than the people who made it out of the tunnels alive. :)
guihong
Jul. 8th, 2005 02:22 am (UTC)
Leave it to you to write a hauntingly beautiful piece on what happened.

You came to mind often today, and I'm so grateful you are here.

Take extra care of yourself. Go gently.

gui
rainsinger
Jul. 9th, 2005 08:07 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the nice thoughts. :)
ultraruby
Jul. 8th, 2005 07:08 am (UTC)
I was thinking about you today. xx
rainsinger
Jul. 9th, 2005 08:07 pm (UTC)
I *heart* you Ultraruby and your new kitten is supercute.
land_girl
Jul. 8th, 2005 08:14 am (UTC)
Wonderful post.

xx
rainsinger
Jul. 9th, 2005 08:07 pm (UTC)
Thank you :)

x
dubaiyan
Jul. 8th, 2005 09:08 am (UTC)
*attack of tube phobia*
not buses, funnily enough.

Glad you're OK. V.v. proud of the emergency personnel on the scene. My friends are mostly accounted for, waiting on one or two. Some of them were all "It takes a terrorist attack for you to ring us" :)
rainsinger
Jul. 9th, 2005 08:09 pm (UTC)
Re: *attack of tube phobia*
Hehehe :)
It was lovely to hear your voice - thank you for ringing and caring.
I'm sorry if I sounded like an idiot I was still in my *fazed and shaky* stage. :)

I'm very proud of the emergency action too - it was so well organised, they all coped marvellously I think.
see, being late to work - dubaiyan - Jul. 10th, 2005 09:28 am (UTC) - Expand
smallblakflower
Jul. 8th, 2005 03:31 pm (UTC)
I want to reply in a way which expresses how moved and impressed i was by your eloquence and insightful considerations, i don't feel like i can articulate it well enough.

I'm so relieved to hear that you and yours are ok.
rainsinger
Jul. 9th, 2005 08:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you :)
We're fine, not scared or anything... things just seem strangely surreal.

x
876454332
Jul. 8th, 2005 04:19 pm (UTC)
sorry if my text inquiring over your welfare was a little vague and left you confused, i just assumed you'd know what i was talking about!

i was just relieved to hear you were safe and sound :)
rainsinger
Jul. 9th, 2005 08:10 pm (UTC)
Hehehehhe.
Thanks Shell :)

By the time I got your text I was all clued in, so that was fine and even the mobile networks seemed to have recovered enough by then for me to SMS back.

twistedserious
Jul. 8th, 2005 05:10 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you're safe.
rainsinger
Jul. 9th, 2005 08:11 pm (UTC)
Thank you :)
Me too.

x
meepettemu
Jul. 8th, 2005 05:30 pm (UTC)
I love you sweetheart, and I'm sorry too if my text had you worried!

x

(yes, Lynne goes mushy at times).
rainsinger
Jul. 9th, 2005 08:12 pm (UTC)
Hahahha :)
Your text was the one that first alerted me to the possibility of something untoward, but I wasn't overly worried. More just shaken later, with the chaos of everything.

I love you lots too.

x
squaddie67
Jul. 8th, 2005 06:08 pm (UTC)
You truly rock
rainsinger
Jul. 9th, 2005 08:12 pm (UTC)
you're pretty cool y'self sir
Thank you

x
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( 39 comments — Leave a comment )

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