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London Tube Shelters

Gerry had not yet finished with Mother England that night. The air raid sirens were wailing anew, louder and shriller than ever.

“Let’s get the fuck outta heah!” shouted Jack.

“Where?” I asked.

We looked at each other and simultaneously blurted, “The subway!” In the glare of searchlights and the distant, reverberating explosions, we made a bee-line for the tubes.

I was slightly ahead when we reached the entrance to the Covent Garden station.

There, we merged with a large group of civilian and military personnel.…I admired these British civilians for their level-headed discipline during this scary time.…

Listening more closely now, I caught snippets of conversations. Most, but not all, station dwellers were working class folk. People from all walks of life were united by fear and anger toward a common enemy. They would rather have been elsewhere, but after eating and sleeping together for extended periods, they had become almost a family.…

[A thirtyish, attractive blonde] woman addressed me.…

"It’s been quite difficult lately. We got bombed out of our home…”

“Very sorry to hear that.”

The woman nodded, and I paused uncomfortably. “Is your husband in the service?”

“Yes. He’s a major in the RAF.”

“A flyer?”


“I guess you miss him.”

“Indeed I do. I just hope he’ll be back in time to see his second child born. Do you have a name, Corporal?”

“Don Quix, ma’am.”

“Elizabeth Higgins.” Elizabeth removed one of her discolored white gloves, and we shook hands.

I really felt sorry for this lady—and admired her. Here was a pregnant mother who had truly come down in the world. She was obviously well-educated and had probably lived in a nice house. Now she was homeless, worried about becoming a widow, and had to raise two children without a father. She could have been killed when her home was bombed, and just now almost saw her daughter die. And she was handling it all very well.

Copyright © 2004-6 Mark Stuart Ellison
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