Going the ‘Wrong Way’

Over recent days, I have posted a few stories and photos about my time as an EMT in the London Ambulance Service. The memories of those years rarely leave me, but they do tend to resurface more poignantly at times.

One thing I often think about is how we always seemed to be going into potential danger, as hundreds of people were fleeing in the opposite direction. During the IRA bombing campaign, ambulances would naturally be sent to the scene of explosions, or to standby after bomb warnings, as bomb disposal officers tried to defuse devices. It felt rather strange to be the only people heading toward such things, as we saw hundreds of pedestrians and vehicles making their way away from the scene.

After the St Mary Axe bombing in The City of London in 1992, we were sent into the area the following day. Our job was to remain on standby, providing safety cover for Fire Crews and investigators working in the affected area. This was a long way from our base, and not a part of London we usually worked in. Arriving on scene, it was incredible to see the devastation; but the strangest thing was the complete absence of people or traffic, and the thousands of documents and pieces of paper still fluttering around.

The following year, another IRA bomb wrecked the area of Bishopsgate, also in The City of London. Once again, we were only required to standby after the event, arriving to find something resembling a war zone.

Three years later, and I was in my house in London’s Docklands, getting ready to travel into work for a night-shift. There was the hollow thump of a large explosion, and the shock wave popped the seals on all of our double-glazed windows, making the large house tremble as it did so. I went outside to see what had happened, and could see smoke rising directly across the River Thames, in the area around Canary Wharf. I got ready quickly, and left to drive into work, expecting to probably be sent to what looked like a major disaster. Fortunately, by the time I arrived at my base, we were no longer required to go there.

On the 7th of July, 2005, I was no longer in the Ambulance Service. I was working as a communications officer with the Special Operations Group of the Metropolitan Police. Following a long night shift, I slept through a series of bombings that became known as the ‘7/7 London Attacks’. Waking up in the late afternoon, I switched on the news to see the full impact of what had happened that day. Four bombs had been detonated by Radical Islamist suicide bombers. Three had been on underground trains, and one on the top deck of a London bus. 52 people had been killed, and over 700 injured, in one of the worst terrorist attacks ever seen in London.

Central London was at a standstill, with all the stations closed, and buses diverted away from the scenes of the bombings. I knew that every emergency resource would have been required, so decided to go into work early, to see if I could be of any help. As I lived close to where I worked, I was able to walk in, a journey of less than thirty minutes.The most direct route was to walk south, straight along Tottenham Court Road. in the direction of my base close to Trafalgar Square.

It didn’t take me too long to realise that I was the only person heading in that direction. Everyone else was heading north, away from potential danger
I smiled as I thought to myself, ‘You’re going the wrong way’.

47 thoughts on “Going the ‘Wrong Way’

  1. A very profound post and some impressive photos. You reminded me of when I visited Ground Zero seven years ago and, while reading the names of the victims, it seemed to me that most of them were firefighters…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can’t imagine being brave enough to be running the same direction as you have so many times over. I have never experience bombing of any kind but the thought of it, is scary. Fortunately there are people like you in this world that show up and save lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Scary photos. I’ll be in London on the 15th of July. I hope I will post all is calm and beautiful in London. I wonder how Londoners deal with that potential threat on a daily basis. I guess you just can’t allow such destruction to rule one’s life? Once again, you went in to assist while civilians ran the other way. I know it was your job and you got paid, but it’s still impressive you had the wits to survive all your experiences even though you downplay it all…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Cindy. I think very few Londoners allow fear of terrorism to affect their daily lives. It is more likely to scare off people from other counties a long way off. I am sure that you will have a wonderful, trouble free time. πŸ™‚
      Thanks for your kind words, as always.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I will think about it nearer the time. It all depends on getting someone to ‘cover’ Ollie. xx
          (No pints for me though. Always red wine, and hopefully to excess. πŸ™‚ )
          I downplay it because we were actually very modest. Boasting about the ‘job’ was considered to be bad form. πŸ™‚

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  4. Several friends were in London on 7/7, one in Tavistock square. It was a very worrying day and they still have nightmares. My daughter was near Westminster when the terrorist drove into the gates of the Houses of parliament & we were relieved to hear from her, but nothing would stop me going up to London to meet friends or visit a museum.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t think that much of it at the time, Maggie. The IRA bombings had gone on so long, they had almost become part of life in London. But now I have time to sit and think about it, I do ponder on all those events.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Reminds me of a friend in Islamabad when the Ojhri Camp blast happened in 1988. It was a weapons depot for the mujahideen fighting against the Soviets. After the initial blast, missiles including rockets, were zooming off wildly in all directions. He was leaving the office to go to the market and as he turned a corner he was met by a wall of people all running towards him. Not even knowing what had happened he turned and ran with them. To this day no one really knows (or at least there’s no official explanation) what caused the blast but hundreds died and thousands were injured.

    Liked by 1 person

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