No joke. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
While I’m in Paris with my Mom and my sister Kate, Jim is in Ireland with his two girls. I know he told me his itinerary more than once, and while I admit I didn’t pay too much attention, I’m pretty sure I would have remembered him saying he was going to Belfast – as in Northern Ireland – you know, the place where the Protestants and Catholics regularly bomb each other.
In fact, I’m pretty sure if he had told me I would have asked him if he was clinically insane, had a death wish or both and then taken out a very large life insurance policy on him (just kidding). But he didn’t.
So I blissfully spent the day at the Louvre, sampled hot noodle bowls at Hijuma and had a pleasant dinner at Pizza Positano and came back to the apartment to this email:
I should tell you this before you see it on Lauren’s Facebook page. We had a fascinating time today watching the 12th of July celebrations and parades in Belfast and engaging a cab driver to take us around through the Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods, explaining the conflicts, sites of some of the worst massacres and the like. But shops, restaurants, pubs and other businesses were closed for the most part, as this is also a holiday when most people don’t work (we didn’t know this part). So we decided to take an earlier train back to Dublin, which turned out to be a good idea and a bad one. Just south of Belfast, in a town called Lurgan, the train was stopped by people blocking the tracks. We didn’t know this initially, but started to wonder what was happening as we saw a small crowd of people gathering on either side of the tracks and looking toward the front of the train. After time, word spread among the passengers that we were stopped, there was some trouble, and someone was saying that all the passengers would have to get off the train. Two men passed through our car with grease-stained hands and arms (and some said with blood on their hands, but I didn’t see that). One was talking on a cell phone, saying that the train had been hijacked and they also told passengers in passing that we would have to get off the train at the next stop. I tried to convince the man in a Canadian couple sitting across from us and who we’d been talking with to call 999 and see if we could determine what was happening. For some odd reason, he wouldn’t make the call, and so I went through the car asking others if they had mobile phones and would call. A British woman did call 999 as someone else was trying to get in touch with the railway. At about this time, a conductor passed through the car and told us that protesters had thrown bricks and petrol bombs at the engine, that the two men we’d seen earlier were from the community and had jumped into the fray to disarm the situation, that the train (which had restarted at this point) was under the control of the railway, and that we were safe. At the next station, when we left the train, we passed the engine. Half of the front windshield was shattered in several places, one side window was also shattered, the window of the door to enter the engine was completely broken out, and there were signs of fire inside the cab, and scorching on the front of the engine. Bottom line is I guess we were in a terrorist attack, we are fine, everyone is safe and not even really shaken up, and Lauren will never forget her birthday. And the good idea of taking the train back when we did (in case you’re wondering what could be good about any of this), is that I have concern that the Belfast-Dublin line may be closed for the rest of the day.
Um, YEAH. A little internet searching told me that Belfast always has issues on July 12 that result in numerous “casualties.” Lovely. Naturally, I sent Jim a quick reply to let him know I was happy he made it through and wondering if he was planning a vacation to Afghanistan next or perhaps a wander through Watts next time he’s in LA.
Needless to say, I’ll be planning our joint vacations from here on out and listening more attentively to his travel plans in future 😉 You really cannot leave some men to their own devices.
The news story regarding the incident, which was in the top 5 on Yahoo (France) last night, can be read here.