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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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Normal family day cut short

The worst thing was not knowing what was going on. But police cars and ambulances rushing past, with blue lights flashing, was the first indication something had gone seriously wrong, though at that time I had no indication bombs had exploded.

Since I had left my mobile at home, I got to a telephone booth, put in the '1 coin I had and rang Amit. Normally he is the one in the middle of bombs but he had not heard the real story.

It was just after 9.15 am. I had left home at 8 am and got the number 63 from south London, hoping to get a reasonably early train from King’s Cross. I was on my way to see my father and my sister in my home village of Histon in Cambridgeshire.

The bus stopped well short of King’s Cross in one of the narrow streets near the station and let us off. Then an ambulance screamed past, then another and another and another. Then it was the turn of police cars to join the race.

Around King’s Cross, there were groups of people standing around, unsure what was going on. Someone said there had been a “major accident”.

Amit just said a friend had phoned him at home and reported the early rumours of an electrical surge on the Underground and that the entire network had been shut down.

He said just turn round and cancel the Cambridge trip. I asked him to call my sister in Cambridge but not my father as this would confuse him as he did not know I was coming. This was all normal family stuff.

What I did not realise was how quickly a big city like London can get gridlocked. It was difficult to get out of the King’s Cross area. The buses were going nowhere. The mood was one of utter confusion and some panic.

Someone said that Angel tube station was shut so there was no point going there. I asked one man what the problem was.

“There has been a bomb on a bus on Russell Square,” he said.

“The underground has been closed down.”

At times like this, there is no other option but to go with the flow of the crowd. I found myself going through Pentonville Road and Holborn and somehow ending up in Fleet Street where I don’t know why but I felt safe. It is easy to get disoriented and geography, Amit keeps telling me, is not my strongest subject.

When I queued at the bus stop, a man came up and told me: “No point standing here, there won’t be a bus.”

There was an elderly couple standing nearby so it was now my turn to go up to them and tell them that the buses were out. By the time I got to Covent Garden, there were people watching a big TV screen in a shop window. By now, it was clear there had been a bomb attack on London.

I rang Amit and asked him to come and pick me up and for once he did not say he would have to file first. Still, I had to walk across Waterloo Bridge to get to the south side of the Thames to the roundabout at the Elephant and Castle. I had been walking for nearly six hours and couldn’t walk any more.

It had been raining heavily. Then the rains stopped and the sun came out. It looked like a beautiful summer’s day. Only on the car radio, there was an extended news bulletin about the death and destruction at King’s Cross and other locations in central London.

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