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1996: Destruction in Docklands

Computer consultant Jamie Thompson was living near Canary Wharf when the IRA planted a bomb there on 9 February 1996.

He had just arrived home when the device exploded.

I went into my apartment and sat down, put my briefcase on the floor and set the video on rewind, because I'd set the timer to record the Simpsons.

Just as I was about to press play there was this rumbling noise.

The apartment block was shaking and I remember thinking stupidly enough that it was an earthquake.


"The windows on my balcony started to flex inwards"

I was focussed on my briefcase, because it was just swaying from side to side as the rumbling noise got louder.

The windows on my balcony started to flex inwards and just at the point I thought they were coming in, the briefcase fell over and there was this almighty boom.

I'd never heard anything like it before.

I went to my balcony, looked out the window and saw a huge pall of smoke rising from the direction of South Quay.

I ran down the stairs, went out the door and started walking down there.

I didn't feel nervous, scared or panicked - I was just walking to see what had happened. I took a path along the marina which is a short cut.

I could hear sirens in the distance - and I could hear things going on - but I couldn't see them. It wasn't until I actually walked out back onto the main road that I could see the scene.


"It seemed as if I'd stepped into a news report"

I was about 50 m [164 ft] from where the truck had been parked and that whole area was blanketed by smoke - it was absolutely impenetrable, you couldn't see anything down there.

People were just running along the road - some were injured, others had bloodied faces from shattered glass.

There weren't any emergency services there that I could see.

It seemed as if I'd stepped into a news report - one woman just kept screaming.

I stood there just feeling completely useless - I was watching people cope in their own way with what was going on.

And all the time people were just looking around for someone to turn up and tell them what to do.

'Voyeuristic'

Whenever you see ambulance and fire crews and police at the scene of an emergency you always know it's in hand, that it's being dealt with.

But in this case they weren't there and I think that was probably one of the most unusual aspects of it - to have got there as quickly as I had.

I started to feel a bit uncomfortable just standing there - it all felt too voyeuristic.

I almost felt someone who had actually been there - who was a victim - would come up to me and say:

"What the hell are you doing? Who are you to watch us standing there in your suit and coat?"


"It was a very numb experience"

It started to feel a very uncomfortable place.

I didn't feel panicked or overwhelmed - it was a very numb experience.

I just felt separated from it all, because something had happened to these people - it hadn't happened to me.

After 10 minutes I felt so useless. Even though I was not in the way of anyone, I felt watching these people who had been caught up in it seemed wrong and I ended up walking home.

In Context
Jamie Thompson has lived in Cyprus since 1999 and runs his own business there.


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