In January of 1991, if you check or remember the world news, images of Saddam Hussein predicting a “long and bloody war” with the U.S. come to mind. On the 3rd, Iraqi ambassadors were expelled from the United Kingdom; on the 12th, Congress granted Bush #1 authority to attack Iraq; on the 15th, Iraq blew off the U.N. deadline for them to withdraw from Kuwait. People in civilized countries were tense, much as they are now in 2017 with regard to North Korea.
On the night of January 16, I and several other students were on a big jet plane for my first flight ever. I loved flying as soon as I felt the acceleration and the wheels lift from the tarmac. But we were admittedly nervous, as were our parents. I think the parents were more so, as they had the worry without it being balanced by the excitement. Once we were well out over the pitch blackness of the Atlantic Ocean, the voice of the pilot came over the intercom:
Ladies and gentlemen, please be patient as our landing time will be delayed briefly. The U.S. Airforce has put us into a holding pattern as bomber jets are crossing our path to begin Operation Desert Storm in Iraq. War has begun.
We soon learned that as we were in the airport, Iraq had fired scud missiles on Israel. We would land in London during active wartime. The first newspapers we saw at the airport wore large print “TARGET: LONDON” headlines.
But it was nightime, and we were exhausted from a long, tense, flight. We finally arrived at St. Margaret’s Bed & Breakfast in Bloomsbury. We all maneuvered our cumbersome luggage into the lobby to the inner left of the Inn, and met in the other lobby.
Our hosts told us some vital details about our rooms, bathrooms, breakfast, etc, and before we retired to our rooms for the night, having seen nothing of where we were yet for the darkness, a young man who worked for the Inn asked: (read in your best british accent)
“Now who will need to be knocked up in the morning, and at what time, please?”
Of course one of our girls said aloud, “are there any other choices besides you?”
We knew it would be an interesting trip. For what its worth, “knocking up” there is a knock on the door to wake up the guest. We figured that out pretty quickly. The next morning began looking out the window to see if we were really in London, finding the shivery cold bathroom down the hall, and then a warm english breakfast of eggs, ham, and toast – toasted on one side of course. Finally, we ventured out into a blustery winter day.
We discovered that the University of London (where our classes were hosted) student union was roughly a block one direction, while about a block the other way was the British Museum. I didn’t even appreciate that just yet. About 2 blocks in another direction was the tube stop (subway station), which would be our primary mode of transportation, until we learned better, anyway.
I think it wasn’t just me that was desperate to see something I would recognize as LONDONY, and we finally made our way to just that:
Welcome to London, England. I wish it was possible for you to enjoy my account as my much as I enjoyed the experience. My struggle with faith, and the war was the last thing on my mind.