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28 October 2014
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Three year old guide dog, Tom.

Guided to safety

Finding yourself in the midst of a huge bomb attack would be frightening enough but imagine not knowing what was going on at all. Mike Townsend, who is blind, found himself precisely in that position. Here he tells us his story...

When Dr Mike Townsend from Fleckney visited London in the summer of 2005 he never thought he'd find himself in the midst of the huge bomb attacks on 07 July.

"I was walking down Tavistock place when there was this enormous explosion behind me..."
Mike Townsend

Mike is blind though, so was unaware of exactly what was going on… But thanks to his faithful friend, Tom, a three year old guide dog, he was lead out of trouble and safely made it to his destination...

Watch Mike's story by clicking on the link below...

"I was down in London for some meetings and I stayed in the Tavistock hotel for the night.

In the morning I was going out to the meeting room and after breakfast I heard a lot of sirens and things and I said to my friends, "I'm going to walk down to the meeting and you can wait for your taxi..."

I was ages waiting to cross the road  - I'd just crossed over and I was walking down Tavistock place when there was this enormous explosion behind me.... I actually thought they were demolishing a building...

But Tom just carried on walking. Then things really started to get complicated, people were rushing past, and streets got closed off.... We couldn't go down the streets we wanted to go down and I began to think that Tom was getting lost. 

Three year old guide dog, Tom and his owner Mike.

I was getting a bit fed up with him actually - but he was finding a totally new route to the place that I was going for my meeting!

We trotted round and we got in and when I got in there we heard that there had been a bomb just right outside my hotel.

People had rushed past and I'd just said, it's getting more like New York every day, because of course, the tube bombs had gone off before, but I didn't know.

Realisation

My wife was at home and she saw the Tavistock hotel on the television and thought, "Mike's there, I wonder what's happened to him?" 

We couldn't get through, the phone lines were down and mobile phones were down, but eventually we managed to get a message through to Edith to say that I was alright.

It challenged me the next night though, because the concierge of the Tavistock Hotel described what happened to him. 

He'd been standing at the cross-roads, the crossing where I'd been waiting ages to cross the road and he'd just talked to a lady about where she should go and the bomb went off and the lady was killed right next to him. 

Dr Mike Townsend, laughing

I thought, if I'd been standing there just a couple of minutes more I'd have been standing at that same crossing.

In church on the Sunday they were praying for people who'd been caught up in the bomb and people who'd lost loved ones and I thought, it could have been Edith and Christine praying for me.

Man's best friend

But Tom was very professional through it all and he wasn't bothered at all by the bombs. 

We had to get home that night - it was very late when we got in, all the trains were cancelled and we couldn't get out of London - but he got his dinner about midnight - very happily munched it up and thought no more of it.

He's usually pretty daft actually - he rips up blankets and we all think he's a bit dumb normally - but he isn't!!"

last updated: 07/07/06
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