As the snow came down again last night I cuddled up on the couch with my sisters to watch a handful of rented DVDs. One of those was The Queen, I was not prepared for the memories that came flooding back to me of the time I spent in London.
A little over ten years ago I headed to England as a scout, I was chosen to join a group of applicants from all over the States to represent the Girl Scouts of America at an international jamboree to be held in Malvern.
At the end of the camp each scout was hosted by a local scout family for a couple days before we all traveled to London for some sightseeing. I was eating breakfast with my host family when the news announced Princess Diana had died in Paris the night before. The entire two days I spent in that town was an odd experience, I think I would have had an entirely different view of normal life in a little English village had I arrived the day before.
Everywhere I looked people were congregating, everyone talking in hushed tones. I remember feeling so out of place, they all knew something I didn't know. After two days the group met at the train station and we traveled to London where we were to sightsee for five days before flying home. None of us could have prepared ourselves for what we were about to experience.
We headed to London on an incredibly packed train, luckily we had all our reservations in order so we didn't have to wait for any trains like so many others in the station. It was a different story when we got to London, the B&B where our reservations had been made had given our rooms to the highest bidder. Six hours later we still could not find any rooms in a city that was filling up fast. Finally our leaders made a call to scout councils back in the States requesting help, we needed any numbers for local councils in London to see if any facilities were available for emergency housing.
A couple options were given to us and ultimately we ended up staying at the wold center in London and then an overnight facility that was used by local scouts. Several scout families brought us sleeping bags and everything else we might need. I saw a different London in those next four days. The crowds were impressive, and I have been in impressive crowds before.
Here is how I remember London.
I remember an empty Piccadilly Square, the few people that were there were sitting and staring off. Even the birds were quiet.
I remember having the museum to ourselves, it was so quiet we felt as if we were intruding.
I remember the faces, everywhere I looked I saw sadness. People were so polite, everyone stopping for everyone else- giving each other an its going to be okay smile.
I remember the flowers. Never have I seen so many flowers, I watched that pile grow. There were so many flowers.
I remember the smell. The sweet rotting, smell of those flowers hung in the air and followed you around.
I remember the people I talked to, the memories random Londoners shared with me at every step. It was obvious everyone had their mind on one thing, one person.
I remember the anger. One day we were trying to walk through a crowd and when some photogrophers came by to snap photographs people became so angry. That was a very scary moment.
I remember the crying, no one could stop crying.
I remember crying for crying's sake. The feeling of sorrow was so overwhelming none of us could help it. Just being there was painful.
But most of all I remember coming home. Home to a place where London was just on the ten o'clock news. I left a crying mass, got on a plane full of somber people, and landed in Chicago where the sun shone.
I remember trying to tell my family what happened, but how can you describe what it is to walk around in a city that stopped living.
I have returned twice to London since that first trip, but the memories of that trip have never been replaced. Honestly, I hardly even remember the following trips to London. I have pictures of the last two trips to look through, but on that first one I have a grand total of three pictures of London, three very bleak pictures.