Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Premonition

Three years ago today on July 12, 2005, my daughter, infant granddaughter and I flew from Paris, landed in Manchester, England, and were headed for Leeds by train to attend the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds.

After learning of the 7/7 bombings in London, Tall Husband had rather strongly suggested that we cancel our trip to Leeds. I refused; pointing out that Leeds was a long way from London. He retorted, “And how do you know the suicide bombers aren’t from Leeds?" I laughed and asked that he not be ridiculous.

At the Manchester airport, after we retrieved our luggage and baby’s stroller, we pushed open double doors and walked into another world. I whispered to my daughter, “My God, we’ve taken the wrong flight. We are in the wrong country!” There were hundreds of people all in middle-Eastern dress who were milling about. Each time I pushed the stroller forward, an angry, glowering man stepped in front of me, blocking my way. I would maneuver around him only to have another man take up his position in front of the stroller. My daughter, pushing our luggage cart, was having the same difficulty. It was like trying to advance down a football field with angry opponents blocking us. I saw a sign stating that we were in Manchester but I could hardly believe it. Their anger and hatred were palpable. Silently, we made our way through the mob, exiting through another set of double doors to an empty area.

“What the hell was that?” my daughter rhetorically asked. Then she looked across the way and I followed her gaze. “Oh, Mom, should we warn him?” She was referring to a young man in Orthodox Jewish dress, headed toward the mob. For some unfathomable reason, we merely stood silently and watched him open the doors to the terminal where the mob was waiting. We couldn’t think of the words to describe what we had seen on the other side of those doors.

The train ride to Leeds was uneventful, except for a stop in Luton when police boarded with a small dog on a leash. “Is that a drug dog, you think?” my daughter asked.

“My guess is that it’s a bomb-sniffing dog.”

At the Leeds train station, we took a bus to the University of Leeds. As we pulled away from the station we commented on the dozens of policemen with automatic weapons in and around the station.

When we arrived at the University, we went to the registration counter. Finding no one there, we followed our ears and found a crowd of people in an adjacent pub. Their eyes were glued to a wall onto which was projected a large television image. The police official on the wall, his projected image of about seven feet tall, was saying that police had found the homes of the suicide bombers and had evacuated 500 homes so they could secure the area. I could not understand much else of what he was saying, due to his unfamiliar dialect. “Where, is this happening?” I asked.

People around me answered, “Here!”


“Here in Leeds.” “They found the bomb factory here in Leeds!” Then, “The London suicide bombers were from Leeds.”

The events of the day began to make sense. This explained the angry mob in Manchester. The inhabitants of the 500 or so homes had no place to go, so they must have taken the train to the Manchester airport. It explained the bomb sniffing dog on the train in Luton and the large number of police at the train station in Leeds.

So Tall Husband had been correct in his guess. I attempted to call him, but none of our phones were working so I found my way to a computer and sent an e-mail to him in the States, “You have probably seen the news. So, you were right.”

Back came his reply: “Be smart, be safe, be home soon. P.S. I love you.”

1 comment:

  1. What an incredible story, and having to witness all of it! We here in the States don't get it,but Europe has had to deal with terrorism for so long. I got a little sense of it when we lived in France for two years,when the war broke out in 2003. Extra military everywhere. The biggest impression was all the bomb sniffing dogs and military at Disneyland Paris. Very odd feeling. Also around Christmas when they would barricade Notre Dame. I can only just imagine how you guys felt being in the middle of something like you did though!