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Touched by Life
By Shea HechtImmediately after the London bombings, I called my family there. I couldn't get through because the phone lines were overloaded, however I finally reached my brother-in-law, Rabbi Aryeh Sufrin. I was shocked to find out that he was on one of the London trains that were bombed - between Liverpool and Aldgate. I was fascinated by the story he told and how this incident affected him. This is a story where we can actually see Divine Providence directing a man's footsteps as well as how even in a big city in times of crisis people are there for each other.
He said, "I very rarely use the train. If I do, it's usually later in the day, but I had an appointment with a correspondent of the Times Newspaper in London; an appointment I waited three months for."
"There was an initial question of whether I should go to this appointment at all, since I was not feeling well the day before. Once I decided to go to the appointment I had to make a decision how to travel - by train or car. Since I'm not used to the confusing underground system, I was tempted to go by car. However, I didn't know the Times correspondent very well, and I wanted to use the time on the train to read over some of her work - which I never did end up doing anyway."
"It happened as I was afraid it would; I got on the wrong train. When I was told which train to switch to, I wasn't aware that there was more than one train on that track - so I once again ended up on the wrong train and going in the wrong direction. I got off at the Liverpool station and finally found the platform I needed."
"By that time the rush hour traffic was at its peak, but I squeezed my way down to the platform to wait for the proper train. When the train came I was standing in between two cars with a choice of entering car two or car three on the very packed train. The Hand of G-d led me and I entered the third car."
"We were traveling for quite a while when we heard an almighty explosion from the car in front of us - car 2 - the one I chose not to travel on. It was a very loud noise and the train stopped abruptly leading us to think it was a crash - at that moment no one was thinking ‘bomb'."
"We looked out the window to try to figure out what happened and saw the railroad cables on fire and a fireball rolling toward us. It was a frightening sight; we thought that was our last moment, but by some miracle the fire went out."
"The carriage went dark and we were left with a thick, acrid smoke. The darkness was almost tangible. The only light was the dim emergency light in the train. We were fighting for air. Though the majority of underground is built with single tunnels and very enclosed space, our train was running on a wide tunnel for two trains so, thank G-d, we had more space and air."
"It was quiet and dark and all we could hear was the screaming from the other carriage. We realized that people are badly hurt. We opened the connecting doors and wanted to bring others into our car."
One lady said, "Don't bring them in, there won't be air for all of us."
"But that was the only such comment and everyone made room for the walking wounded."
"For the next hour, we waited to evacuate, while they took the wounded off the train. The train was very quiet. I suppose everyone was lost in their own thoughts. When it was our turn to evacuate, we were taken out the back door. Generally, they wouldn't take victims past an accident scene, but because we were in a tunnel and the closest way to a station was past the bomb site we all walked past."
"We realized this was no crash since there was no other train in sight, and the whole side of the train was blown off. We could see a gaping hole and all the dead and injured inside; it was an ugly site."
"We walked to the station outside. The emergency services were incredible. I don't know how they did it so fast, but they set up stations with water and tea for the people coming out of the bombing site. They commandeered two double decker buses to ferry the mildly injured and three helicopters to transport the seriously injured to the hospital."
"The bombing was at 8:45 and by 10:30 I was upstairs on the street level looking for a ride. For me this whole ordeal took less than two hours from start to finish."
"My first thoughts when the bomb exploded and I saw the ball of fire rolling toward me were, what will become of his family when I die? And will they find a body to bury?"
Then I started thinking, "I'm in the middle of so many good projects and I won't be able to finish them, but who can question G-d's ways"
"When the fire went out, I calmed down and began to think clearly, and I saw the Hand of G-d clearly guiding me on this train ride. All the facts showed me that - for reasons I don't understand and may never understand - I was supposed to be on that train at that time. From the fact that I kept the appointment even though I wasn't feeling well, that I took a train and not a car, that I mixed up and missed the trains (had I made my original train I would have made my appointment) to the fact that we were in a wider two-lane tunnel. I felt that though G-d was sending a greater worldwide message, the fact that I was on the train, meant that there was a personal message for me. I saw clearly that we can make any plans we want, but at the end of the day it's G-d who leads us in our path."
"Ultimately," my brother-in-law concluded, "I was touched by life. Everyone was caring and concerned about everyone else which had a profound impact on me. There were approximately 130 people on one of the previous (wrong) trains that I took, and not one person communicated with the next. Some passengers read, some slept, some stared out the window and some listened to their ipod's. I was wondering then - what would it take to get people to talk to one another."
"One hour later I got the answer."
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