July 21 was a strange day for six local residents. They found themselves in the chaotic streets of London during the second round of terrorist bombings.
Mike and Robin Dudley were on vacation in England with another McDuffie County couple, Doug and Penny Whitaker. After a little coaxing, Mrs. Whitaker agreed to leave for London on July 8, the day after the first bombings only to be headed home the day of the second round.
Brenda and Kelly Prater were on their way to visit a missionary family member in Nigeria. Their brief stopover in London turned into a much longer one that kept them there during the second bombing after Kelly needed an emergency appendectomy.
Though none of them were hurt during the bombings, the experience of being on the scene during a major terrorist attack is something they will never forget.
"It just kind of made me think this: we should never feel completely 100 percent safe anywhere we are, but yet we shouldn't feel too fearful even when you're in a situation like that," Mr. Dudley said. "It just seems like it's the way of the world now. It's just the nature of the beast, and it's a shame."
Mr. Dudley noticed a policeman with a machine gun while exiting a subway train that morning. Even after asking around, no one could tell the group exactly what had happened until Mrs. Whitaker called her son.
"Once we got to a phone on the street I called home," Mrs. Whitaker said. "Wes said é─˛Please tell me y'all are not in London.'"
The streets were full of police, with sirens wailing and motorcycles screaming by, Mr. Dudley recalled. The group even witnessed the police arresting a possible suspect of Middle Eastern descent and police dogs searching an unattended book bag.
The whole incident caught the group by surprise. They thought that so soon after the first bombings, the city would be as safe as it ever was. Mr. and Mrs. Dudley rode the tube from Heathrow to London the day they arrived because locals advised them it was the best way to get there.
"I felt real comfortable doing it the day after that happened because I figured that ain't going to happen again," Mr. Dudley said. "I don't think that now."
"I know they felt like the first time was a one-time incident, but then when it happened the second time, you just can't predict what they're going to do," Mrs. Whitaker said.
The Praters - wife and 13-year old daughter of John Prater the pastor of Marshall Baptist Church - should have seen London in their rearview mirror by the time of the second bombings. But according to Sandy Lloyd, a friend who has kept in touch with them on a daily basis, the pain in Kelly's side kept them in a London hospital instead.
Mrs. Lloyd said during the surgery, Kelly's appendix ruptured which extended their stay even further. Mrs. Prater had to take a bus to the hospital each day to visit her daughter.
"She said that she's at the point where é─˛OK Lord, I'm supposed to be in Nigeria, why am I in London? What have you got for me in London?'" Mrs. Lloyd said.
But all are out of harm's way. And for Mr. Dudley, the sight of home was a welcome one after dealing with the stress of his English vacation.
"I was kind of glad to get out of there and get back to Thomson, Ga.," Mr. Dudley said.