Students experience London terror firsthand


    TCU students who studied abroad at the London Centre this summer experienced firsthand the confusion and fear of the July 7 terrorist attacks on the London transit system.”There was always the thought in the back of your mind that it could happen again,” said junior English and history major Tyler Brown.

    Despite a “sense of paranoia,” Brown said the bombings did not ruin his experience in the study abroad program.

    Although the professors knew the students were shaken up by the events that took place, they said none of the students thought about leaving the trip early.

    Brown said initially his father suggested it may be best if he came home.

    “I wasn’t going to have some crazy (terrorists) tell me how to live my life with bombs,” Brown said. “Who’s to say that home would be safer?”

    Brown said he and eight other classmates were enrolled in the Thistle, Rose and Shamrock course, which included two weeks each in Scotland, England and Ireland.

    Associate professor of English Bonnie Blackwell said most of the students liked London the best, even if it was a little traumatic.

    It was hours after the bombings occurred before the group even knew the full scope of the attacks, sophomore advertising/public relations and history major Lauren Nixon said.

    “That was really frustrating,” she said. “We knew something was going on that morning, but we didn’t know the magnitude of what had happened.”

    Associate professor of English Karen Steele said the lesson planned for that day was to take place at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The class walked to the museum after discovering that the subway system in England, called “the tube,” had been shut down, she said.

    Steele said everyone thought the problem was minor.

    “The underground entrance was blocked due to a power surge,” Steele said. “We thought there was just a problem with the transformer.”

    Brown said after the museum went into lockdown, with the professors and half the class inside, news of the bombings started to spread.

    The other half of the class had left the museum for a lunch break shortly before guards began directing patrons to safety in the basement, Blackwell said.

    History professor Sara Sohmer said not having the entire group together was the hardest part of the day.

    Nixon said she was at a restaurant when she and the other students eating lunch started hearing about the bombings, and when they returned to the closed museum, the group was told that everyone inside had left.

    “We decided the best thing to do was go back to the residence hall,” Nixon said.

    The small group of students who returned to the residence hall were the first from TCU to check in and report its safety, she said. The group learned that the others were still inside the museum in the basement when it was able to communicate by cell phone with a student inside, Nixon said.

    Blackwell said after an hour of lockdown, both students and faculty were able to reassure their families that they were safe.

    The students were scared, and everyone was grateful to be able to contact their families, Steele said.

    Nixon said everyone’s families were relieved to hear of their safety.

    “I definitely talked to my mom a lot more after that happened,” Nixon said. “I made sure to call her every day.”

    Brown said the students watched news reports detailing the events that had taken place just across town from the museum they were visiting.

    “That’s when kids really got scared,” Brown said.

    The three professors in charge of the class said they tried to limit the amount of television the students watched and to quickly restore a sense of routine.

    “I felt it was important to get back on public transit as soon as possible,” Steele said.

    Nixon said the London bombings brought back memories from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks for much of the class.

    “It was not the same magnitude as 9/11, but the feelings were the same at first,” Nixon said. “It was weird because we were here, we were closer.”

    Though the tour of the Victoria and Albert Museum did not go as originally planned, Nixon said, the group did not let the bombings affect the itinerary for the rest of the trip. Their tour of the city and trip to Ireland continued as scheduled.