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Friday, August 11, 2006

hell at heathrow's doors

We arrived at Heathrow to see swarms of people standing outside.

Huddled under cover a young woman approached me: "Didn't you see the news this morning? They were planning to bomb 10 airplanes. They've caught most of the suspects but they're still looking for a few."

I buttoned my jacket tighter, and watched as security ran around frantically, trying to organize flights and the people outside.

It has been said to be the most ambitious terror plot since September 11th, and there I was, gripping my suitcase, watching the effect of it.

While most European flights were cancelled, our British Airways flight to Vancouver was eventually called and we were let in the airport.

Inside I began to get shivers up and down my spine. These lasted for the three hours we were there. Men stood around with guns as we were told we could bring nothing but our passports and wallets on board.

We shoved our laptops into our suitcases and prayed they would make it, and were handed small clear plastic bags for our belongings.

No liquids were allowed, no lip gloss, no gum, none of the ammenities I usually bring aboard. In this kind of circumstance, we understood the cutbacks and obliged without complaint.

"This was intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale," said Paul Stephenson, Scotland Yard's deputy commissioner.

Images of Heathrow airport flashed across TV screens. Suddenly the terrorist attacks and wars I've distanced myself from for so long felt very real. It was probably the reality check I needed.

I worried about my friend flying to Amsterdam that day from Heathrow, as his flight would be cancelled, and he was to fly to India out of Amsterdam in a couple of days.

We walked around Duty Free with blank expressions. No one would be buying booze, or any other liquid, to take home with them today. Passengers huddled around TV screens and watched the news: reality TV at its best.

Outside on the runway there was little movement. No inbound flights were allowed to come into Heathrow, and dark clouds formed over the airplanes, the stillness somehow unsettling.

After a delay of around two hours we finally boarded our flight. Comforted by the knowledge that we were flying to Canada, one of the safer destination points, my shivers eventually died off.

We arrived in Vancouver, and after some extra security measures were finally released, finally home, and thank god, safe as well.


Blogger A Novelist said...

Very scary. The world is becoming a frightening place to live anymore. Stay safe! :)

8:20 AM  
Anonymous Nico said...

Thanks for this first-hand and honest story, Gill. Oddly enough, I booked a BA flight (on Aug 31st) from Raleigh-Durham to Vienna (via LHR) just yesterday. We'll see how it goes.

Glad to see you arrived well, and hope your mixed feelings about going home after a year full of life-changing events will morph into happiness to be home with long-lost friends and family and into excitement about your future plans.

1:32 PM  
Blogger Georgia said...

That's incredible that you got to be involved in that, Gill. I was watching it on the news all day. It's really terrifying when you realize that terrorism isn't just "someone else's problem." The world is indeed becoming scary. Glad you're safe. Welcome home.

2:09 PM  
Blogger LaLa said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:27 PM  
Blogger LaLa said...

I want to weep for humanity, there is so much good in the world but the rare sectors of bad seem to outweigh the good at times.

I am so glad you are safe

4:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yo hey gill

it's andrew i got on the flight alright just three hours late. I also went through the same experiences as you. They made me throw away my book as i went through security, i was not to pleased with that, considering i was at its climax. I am now in india and fine.


7:18 AM  
Blogger thetiniestspark said...

hi gill,
glad you got back friend is leaving phoenix for england today and it's ridiculous how many constraints are being placed on what he can take BOOKS??!! it's madness...sigh.

anyhow glad you're safe, and i loved your post on london, isn't it the bestest of the restest?! : )

ooh and i started my own blog. hooray for blogs!
--kira, of e-mail affection

6:15 PM  
Anonymous antonellaa said...

heyy, i really love you posts.. i mean, theres probably antoher hundred things i could add to that modest statement, but it's the truth, i meann, if i wouldnt leave on the other bloody end of the world (a.k.a Bs As, Argentina) i would lovee to meat you. anywayy, you are allowed to think im crazy... but im sure im allowed to like you as well... you are funn.

keep it up, ciao baby.

3:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We can probably expect more of this now,as the west continues to terrorise the middle east,they will probably continue to terrorise us.

1:15 AM  
Blogger Gillian Young said...

You guys are the best, really. Thank you for all the caring comments, you're the reason I write this thing.

2:24 AM  

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