Monday, 16 May 2011

Coded warnings

I debated writing this post for literally five minutes before getting out my laptop, wrapping myself in a blanket and treating my blog as a personal diary.

So today there has been a coded bomb warning allegedly from the IRA or another breakaway splinter group with a non time specific or location specific threat of a bomb.

Nothing scares me more than bomb threats.

I've seen what bombs can do not only to buildings and people's bodies but the long lasting damage it can do to peoples minds. Even people who weren't there.

In 1996 I worked at a place called South Quay. It is a little way away from Canary Wharf but still even now it is called the "Canary Wharf" bombing. For some reason this irritates me. Was South Quay not seen as important enough. Does "South Quay bombing" not make such good reading?

I worked for an American company called Franklin Mint, I was 21 and having the time of my life. We worked hard, partied hard and were a tight knit bunch. We thought we were invincible and nothing would spoil what we had.

We were wrong.

I was lucky.

I wasn't even in work that day. I decided to throw a sickie. My other half had no work that day and I decided to join him in a rare day off. My housemate who I worked with went off to work muttering about being me being a lazy bitch and I enjoyed the rest of the day without even an ounce of guilt.

Until 7pm that night.

We worked in a shift pattern at Franklin Mint. 11-7pm or 2-10pm

I can tell you exactly what happened that night, So many times in the weeks afterwards we gathered together to discuss it. We cried, we laughed, we fought.

At 6.30pm the supervisor of the shift went out for a cigarette to find the whole area silent apart from a shed load of police who seemed extremely shocked to find a woman with a cigarette slap bang in the centre of a blocked off area!

A quick conversation later and the whole of the call centre staff were downstairs shivering on the pavement moaning about bloody fake bomb threats.

And then the part comes that seemed to get lost somewhere along the way.

Somehow my friends got allowed back into their building. No-one knows who they heard it from, but half the office who were working till ten pm went back in and the staff that were meant to be working until 7 decided it was a result and left early.

Just five minutes later the bomb went off.

I heard the bomb from my house. I didn't think anything of it until the news flashed up. Even then when they said Canary Wharf I didn't dream that my building would be destroyed. Two people that I saw on a daily basis would be dead and many many others would be scarred for life.

I remember throwing up, just vomiting uncontrollably. I remember shaking and not being able to stop. This was before mobile phones, before internet was available instantly. we had to wait for the information to come to us. I sat glued to the screen not able to tear myself away. My housemate came home without even knowing what had gone on and we just sat there watching the TV.  Whenever something other than the news was on we just sat in silence. We didn't know who was alive or who was dead. We dialled our office, but the lines were down.

We didn't sleep just devoured every scrap of information we could and dialled our friends hoping that everyone was ok.

When we got the papers the next day we saw one of our colleagues with blood running down his face on the front page. I remember being offended they had spelt his work place wrong. My sense of priorities was skewed. I felt useless, drained and angry that a journalist couldn't even get his place of work right.

I saw that 2 people I knew had died. Inan Bashir and John Jefferies. They worked in the newsagents that I visited a couple of times a day. I'd stood in that newsagents so many times chatting with Inan. John was a lot quieter but always had time for a chat, especially about guitars. I thought of them as friends in the same way as anyone else I worked with. They were part of my day. And they were gone. an I hadn't got a chance to say goodbye.

Slowly we got more information, Some of my friends had been badly injured as they had gone back into the building. When we finally all met up it was hard to meet their eyes. Stitches, bruises, broken bones. Some of them thought themselves lucky. Some were angry. The people who had gone back into the office seemed to think that the people who hadn't been there had no right to feel sad or upset. We didn't know what had happened, how they had escaped or been rescued.

In their eyes we didn't know how they felt. We hadn't felt their fear or been scared for our lives.

The people who weren't there felt like we were being pushed out. We HAD felt fear, we HAD been scared. We weren't belittling their pain, why should they belittle ours.

When we went back to work a week later in temporary offices they were literally 2 minutes down the road from our old building which was now destroyed.

That was my building. It still makes me feel ill all these years later, how they imagined that just a couple of weeks later we would all be fine going past it I have no idea.

We tried to keep going. We laid flowers for those we had lost. We covered shifts for people that had to have time off for hospital appointments.

But it wasn't just the building that had been destroyed. It destroyed the spirit of EVERYONE who was there. It pulled us all apart. Guilt, fear. We all suffered.

I know that if I hadn't had the day off I would have been killed. I would have waited in the newsagents for my boyfriend to pick me up which he did every day. I live with that. I can feel lucky that I wasn't there and mostly I do. but on days like this when once again the memories flood back I feel guilty.

I don't feel like I have a right to feel fear when other people came so much closer to death.

I feel guilty that I let my fear take over when other people have moved on. I think that I have moved on, and then we have days like this when it all comes flooding back.

and then I feel like they have won.

And I can't have that. I refuse to let that happen.

I'm not in touch with anyone from that time in my life. We all drifted apart. It was easier that way, we didn't have to look at each other and acknowledge the pain that we all suffered in different ways.

Maybe that was the wrong thing to do. I don't know.

But it felt easier at the time.

I'm sorry this is such a rambling post. Perhaps I will delete it, I'm not sure.

But if you are still here at the end of it, I thank you.

Kellie x x


  1. i don't really know what to say except this was a very moving post and you are very brave for writing and publishing it. i can't imagine what going through something like that would be like whether you were there or not

  2. Wow. Please don't delete this post. It's very touching and makes threats like the one today very real.
    E x

  3. Oh my goodness what a post - you poor thing, your poor colleagues and what horrible memories.

    Sarah x

  4. this is simply an incredible post, please don't delete it.

  5. I'm sorry to hear what you have been through but thank you for sharing this. I think it's very important for people to hear a voice like yours.


  6. I lived Hackney when the Bishopsgate bomb went off in 1993. It was a Saturday morning and I just remember this huge bang waking me up. It was a strange echoing noise.

    I lived in the nurses home and our phones were all routed through the hospital switchboard so no-one could contact their loved ones.

    Please don't delete your police. Everyone gets annoyed when the tubes are delayed because of bomb threats, but they need to see the real side.


  7. That should have said "dont delete your post" damned predictive text.

  8. Honestly what a well written and moving post, what an awful thing to have experienced. And whilst you aren't seeking to hear it it still warrants saying that only a really gifted writer could shift between your more usual hilarious vitriol and this evocative, emotive piece of writing and carry them both off sublimely. xx

  9. That is the most moving post I have read in a long time. ((hugs))

  10. Danielle Adams16 May 2011 at 17:22

    I remember the bomb all too well, I was leaving my house and felt the blast fortunately I wasn't close enough for it to cause me any damage just knocked be back a few paces, but I also used to work near South Quay, our company had left the docklands a few months earlier thankfully, but I still had friends there, and can remember the devestation of the building. I feel so lucky that we had left, I know I would have gone for a drink after work and would probably of still been in the office when it went off, also thankfully everyone I knew got away safely. You shouldn't feel guilty for your feelings it is only natural, it was a very distressing time.

  11. Such a touching post, an awful experience for you & you have every right to be scared/upset/confused etc, nobody should be able to tell you how to feel when something like this happens. I truly hope you manage to get over it, although you will never forgot xxxx

  12. goosebumps. chills. sorrow.
    i'm sorry you have to live with the thoughts and pain. xxx

  13. I'll never forget that day either,
    I was working in asda that evening and I just remember the panic.
    I too feel sick when I hear about bomb alerts.

  14. Like everyone else says - DO NOT DELETE! There is nothing wrong with being scared and thinking what if. I was working in London for a week in July 2005. On 7/7 I had the day off so decided to take an early morning walk to Covent Garden (didn't go on the tube as I always end up lost). I remember having breakfast in a restaurant and talking to the assistant manager about what the problem was with the tube as staff hadnt made it to work (it was still be reported as a power failure). Then my mobile rang and it was sister asking where 'I sodding was' and I found out about the bombings. I was stuck in London like a fish out of water. Later that day went back to my hotel I sat shitting myself in my hotel room, to scared to take a bath in case there was a bomb warning. It really brought home what dangerous times we were living in. I only hope these new threats don't increase, we do not want to go back to those dark days. Take care xx

  15. I'm so sorry for what you all went through .. I can only imagine how horrific it was. No wonder days like today bring it all flooding back. I'm no expert but I would imagine what u felt was perfectly normal. Doesn't make it easier to deal with tho eh? Thanks for posting this. It was very, very brave. X

  16. Thanks so much for posting this Kellie, please don't delete! Such an amazingly written & touching post. I honestly don't know what to say other than I'm sorry you had to go through such an experience, can't even begin to imagine what you went through. You should not feel guilty at all, hope in time things get easier *huuuuugs!*

    Love Aysh xoxo

  17. You were absolutely right to post this emotive, eloquent post Kellie. I come on here seeking inspiration as a fellow SureSlimmer and instead found myself incredibly moved by your words.

    Stay strong, stay positive and try not to dwell on what could have been. I'm so sorry you had to experience something so gruesome and lifechanging.

  18. Oh Sweetie, That sounds just awful. We're so lucky you're still here. I was on the tube during 7/7. I wasn't on one of the actual trains but was in the tunnels on the line at the time. They kept telling us we weren't moving because of electrical faults. I had no idea what was going on till I got to Notting Hill from my Canary Wharf flat several hours later. Even when everyone heard that buses were being targeted and got off the bus I was on I stayed on as my iPod was on and I didn't hear what they were saying. I definitely count myself lucky I'd decided to do the extra ten minutes of yoga that morning or it could have been a very different story. xxx

  19. Bautifully written. I couldn't stop reading until I reached the end.

  20. You absolutely should not feel any guilt, the only people who should are the ones who let off that bomb. As you know, my street adjoined Marsh Wall, South Quay was practically at the end of my street. I'll never forget that night. I had driven to the South Quay cashpoint an hour before the bomb exploded, and had unknowingly parked right next to the lorry with the bomb in it. The anti-terrorism squad later interviewed me as I was a potential witness.
    Like you, it was horrendous to see friends on the news, covered in blood or being take into A&E. One family I know was devastated by it, Dad had brain damage that has affected the rest of his life and both kids were injured but luckily recovered.
    We were all affected by it in some way, whether at the actual site or not.
    So do not feel guilty.

  21. In 1996, I was at university in Manchester and worked in the Arndale Centre at the weekends. The end of the year came round and my girlfriend at the time and I left Manchester to go home for the summer, she to North Wales, me to Hertfordshire. The following Saturday, she planned to go back to go shopping in the Arndale Centre.

    That day, while I was sat in the barber's, I heard that the IRA had bombed the shopping centre. I was sick with worry for a couple of hours until I found out that she'd changed her plans and not bothered to go all that way. The relief was immense.

    A week earlier and I'd have been evacuated along with all my workmates. Thankfully, none of them were injured, but it still affected them all.

  22. Kellie, I had no idea you had been through this.
    I'm so grateful you took the day off. I'm so angry that this happened to you, your friends, your colleagues, your life.

    Destruction is heartbreaking, and I can't imagine how you feel. X

  23. I worked in the same office. Our security guard was badly hurt and carried out, we had to relocate to offices in Wapping. The newsagent who died, Mr Bashir, was a very friendly chap who made a special trip to the cash and carry to get diabetic chocolate for another pregnant colleague. I was at home in Bow and heard a MASSIVE boom, then the sirens started. I'm sorry I don't remember you, my name's Philip, I was in customer service. I found this page searching for info on the bombing and it brought back a few memories. All the very best to you and yours.


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