Monday, 15 October 2012

Sliding Doors ...

Have you ever seen the film ?

Sliding Doors is a 1998 British-American romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Peter Howitt and starring Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah, and featured John Lynch, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Virginia McKenna. The film alternates between two parallel universes, based on the two paths the central character's life could take depending on whether or not she catches a train.

We can all wonder about what if ?  Crossing the road, catching the bus, the list goes on. Its all the more apparent when you live in the big cities. Last night, I just caught sight of something on twitter.  A split second and it was gone, but I followed it up.

WW2 Tweets from 1940  @RealTimeWWII
Livetweeting the 2nd World War, as it happens on this date & time in 1940, & for 5 years to come.

It was just after 10pm here in Skiathos, 8pm in the UK, and 72 years later ...

WW2 Tweets from 1940 ‏@RealTimeWWII
8.02PM Balham Underground Station has suffered a direct hit from a high-explosive bomb. Hundreds of people sheltering from air raid inside.

WW2 Tweets from 1940 ‏@RealTimeWWII
Balham Station has partially collapsed, choking tunnels with rubble. Few casualties yet- main platforms still standing. 

WW2 Tweets from 1940 ‏@RealTimeWWII
Balham bomb has burst water mains & sewage pipes, making them flow straight into the station. Tunnels blocked- platforms starting to flood.

WW2 Tweets from 1940 ‏@RealTimeWWII
Balham station engineer: "As I scrambled to open an emergency door, people scratched at my hands in desperation- my fingers bled in ribbons"

WW2 Tweets from 1940 ‏@RealTimeWWII
66 people are dead at Balham Tube Station. Bodies buried beneath rubble, & trapped underwater. Gas leak suffocated some 

WW2 Tweets from 1940 ‏@RealTimeWWII
A London bus has plunged headlong into the vast crater outside Balham Tube Station- in blackout, driver didn't see it. 

Well for just over a year, I lived in London near Balham, I used this tube station  on my way to work. I had seen the plaque on the wall commemorating this sad day, not really knowing what it meant. Like many others streaming down the hole into a subterranean world, to catch a train. We all head off on a split second into our own world  of what if's ...

That day people streamed down into the tube, to take shelter from falling bombs. They travelled from quite a distance looking to take shelter, some being turned away from other stations that were full. On the 14th October 1940 at 8.02pm a 1400 kilo semi armour piercing bomb penetrated 32 feet underground and exploded just above the cross passage between the two platforms.

Its known as the Balham disaster, and due to censorship, was not made public. Had it been made public  then Londoners would have thought twice, about taking shelter in the tube system, and greater loss of life taken place.

What if the 64 had chosen somewhere else to shelter?

What if the man above pressed the button a split second later?

I took that Northbound platform, through those tunnels, many times nearly seventy years later. Going through my own series of What if's just to get there. One day thinking - What if I move to Skiathos?

What if - I had not? then you would not be reading this right now ...

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