This ramble through my illness will, of necessity, refer to a major component of my illness; that is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). So, it would be a good idea I think, to cover, early on, the incident that led to this. Crucial to this part of the story is the fact that I am a firefighter in the London Fire Brigade and have been since 1988.
At 21.20 on 10th April 1992 a massive bomb in a van/lorry exploded outside the Baltic Exchange in St Mary Axe in the City of London. It killed three people and injured many more and caused widespread damage over a large area. The bomb had been planted by the IRA. Although a warning was given it was misleading and seemed to indicate a bomb outside the stock exchange.
I remember this evening as being unseasonably warm. I was on duty that night. At the time I was outside in the yard of my base fire station (Knightsbridge) and we distinctly heard the explosion and were mobilised to the incident very soon afterwards.
This bomb was at the time, and I believe still is, the largest ever terrorist bomb on mainland Britain. Yet, oddly, it seems to be the one that most people have forgotten. It frequently frustrated me that people used to say “What?” if I ever mentioned the Baltic Exchange bomb. Something that was to have a profound effect on my life but seemed inconsequential to many people.
The photograph above gives an indication of the damage. Although this picture is from some days later after some clearing up had been done. Obviously on the night itself it was in darkness.
This picture saws the Commercial Building which was across a square from the bomb and was also extensively damaged. It was a startling feature of our approach to the incident to see how far away and widespread the damage was.
The bomb was said to have caused £800 million worth of damage which is some £200 million more than the total for all incidents during the troubles in Northern Ireland.
Attempts were made to preserve parts of the building, especially the historic trading floor but the damage was too great and it had to be demolished and dismantled .The building known as The Gherkin was built on the site. So it’s been pretty hard to ignore. I go into Central London, and particularly Southwark, quite frequently so I see this “beacon” on the site all the time. I like the Gherkin as a design but there have been times I have hated it because of the trigger it could be during my illness.
This is a brief account of the event. Next time I will go into more detail of how this led to my PTSD