On November 5, 1997, I was working in London, England. Ed Sheredy and I were training IBM employees from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales to use a new software program that monitored customer contracts.
We were staying at the Strand Palace near the Waterloo Bridge. Each morning we’d walk across that bridge on our way to the IBM building on the South Bank of the River Thames. At the end of our workday, we’d reverse our travel, stop in the hotel long enough to drop off our briefcases, and then head back out into the London night to find something to eat.
After returning to the hotel, I’d write a letter to my intended bride, watch a bit of telly, and then turn in for the night.
My room was very reminiscent of a monk’s cell at a monastery. My bed was about the size of a standard door, which meant I had to take care while turning over to avoid finding myself on the floor.
On this particular night, I was barely asleep when the explosions started. I could see flashes of light and hear loud booms. I quickly got out of bed to look out my window.
My view represented both good and bad news. The bad news lied in the fact that my room was on the inside of the building and faced a courtyard… making it impossible for me to see what was happening on the streets below. The good news lied in that same fact – if someone was firing missiles at the hotel, I was relatively safe.
The bombardment continued for about thirty minutes… and then all was quiet. I considered getting dressed and going down to the lobby to investigate. I decided that if the hotel had been hit, some sort of alarm would’ve sounded and we would have been ordered to vacate. I decided to await orders. I soon fell asleep.
When I went down for breakfast in the morning, I was pleased to see that our hotel had no damage whatsoever. Surprisingly, no one was discussing the matter. One would think a terrorist attack would be the only topic of conversation. Ed entered the lobby as perplexed as I was. We went into the restaurant for breakfast and asked our waiter about the late night explosions.
Believe it not, it was simply folks celebrating Guy Fawkes’ Day. To learn more about Guy Fawkes, Click here to view a video about the foiled plot of 1605.
At first I failed to understand. I thought it was a spoof of Guy Fawkes and his group of dissident Catholics in their futile attempt to kill the king and the nobles who comprised the Parliament of the time. I later came to realize that the celebration was based on the fact that the plot was discovered and stopped before any damage could be done.
In any case, you are now officially warned. If you find yourself in London on the evening of November 5th, be prepared for the fireworks!