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Samford Students, Others Safe at London Study Centre

Posted by Sean Flynt on 2005-07-07

All students and others connected with Samford University's London Study Centre in England are reported safe following a series of bombings in the city.

Residents at the Centre include 17 members of a Samford-sponsored Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research trip, three Samford students who are working in internships, and retired Samford administrator Joe Lewis and his wife, Shirley, who are the Centre's summer hosts.

Student interns are Abby Banks, a graphic design major from Birmingham, Jessica Colbert, a business major from Martinez, Ga., and Laura Ratzlaf, a theatre major from Destin, Fla.

Fifteen other Samford students who were at the center for summer studies had left London on June 24.
Samford's London Study Centre, known as Daniel House, serves as home and classroom to Samford students throughout the year. It is located in the Kensington Park area of London.

The bombings were several miles from Daniel House, according to Dr. Lewis. "They were on the northern part of the Circle and District lines while we are on the southern part. Our location was not involved at all in the destruction," wrote Lewis in an email on Thursday.

"We, of course, are very shocked and saddened by the events in London," said Samford president Thomas E. Corts. "Because of our program there, London is a very special place to Samford. The University community will continue to pray for those affected, both directly and indirectly, by these events."

Samford celebrated the London program's 20th anniversary in 2004.

According to Samford associate provost J. Mark Bateman, school officials are continuing contact with students in London and their families in the U.S.

"We are working with the students to provide emotional support, as needed, and direction on completing their academic assignments," said Bateman, who has administrative responsibility for the school's international studies programs.

Colbert, an intern at the American Embassy, reports that her early morning commute on the bus system was normal, but her daily routine changed quickly after the bombings.

A little after 9 a.m., she said, the Marines who work security announced over the Embassy intercom that there was an incident involving "the Tube" with at least one fatality. "We were instructed not to leave the premises until further notice," wrote Colbert in an email to Samford on Thursday.

"All morning we could hear sirens all around the streets of London. Colleagues, who normally commute an hour to get to work, were worried about how they were going to get home. The London public transport system had shut down completely. This system is the backbone of London. It doesn't work without it," said Colbert.

As news reports continued, she said, "Everyone was very uneasy. No one knew when the news of another bomb would turn up. And being at the Embassy, everyone was a little nervous.

"Because I work in the commercial department of the Embassy, the only issues we were dealing with were ones of financial matters. As the stock market was already taking a hit, it was apparent that we had our work cut out for us.

"However, no one called to talk about business today-it was all safety and concern calls," said Colbert, who was relieved to confirm the safety of her Daniel House roommate, Laura Ratzlaf, who regularly uses one of the affected stations in her morning commute.

Colbert noted that while Embassy staff members have all been through extensive training in how to deal with terrorist attacks on the Embassy, "No one really knew what to do as far as dealing with an attack like this."

"The Embassy itself is very secure and very precautious about terrorist attacks. Much of the staff is attending the G8 summit. My colleagues and I felt like a target but felt very safe at the same time. We all knew the security and protection we were getting was some of the best in the world, but the uneasiness was still present."

News of Prime Minister Tony Blair's return to London early, she said, "While comforting was also a little frustrating. The U.K's involvement has meant a lot of work and excitement for the U.S. Embassy staff.

"With the large amount of news and media focused on the summit, we thought the summit would be very successful, and all my co-workers were looking forward to helping out with it."

By 1 p.m., she said, as police were instructing people to stay put, Embassy officials suggested that staff members leave if they felt they should.

"Because of all the precautions taken, everyone at the Embassy knew the dangers of terrorist attacks, and did not want to be in a place that is considered a major target."

"I walked home, only about an hour to an hour and a half away. The walk home was very strange, similar to a scene from a movie. It was raining, sirens were going off, police cars and ambulances were racing down the streets, and everyone seemed to be tense and uncomfortable. I was very thankful to return to the Daniel House," said Colbert.

 

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