- The Washington Times - Friday, July 8, 2005

The way Kristen Hassler figures it, she boarded the train just ahead of the one blown apart by a terrorist’s bomb as it was leaving London’s Edgware Road subway station Thursday morning.

But the 23-year-old Rockville native and 2000 graduate of Magruder High School insists the attack, one of a string of bombings that left at least 50 persons dead and hundreds injured, will not drive her from the city she has grown to love.

Despite the sizeable number of Americans living in London, the State Department said yesterday that four U.S. citizens are known to have been injured in the bombings, with two still hospitalized yesterday.

“In some strange way, I feel as safe now here as I did before the bombings,” Miss Hassler said in a telephone interview from London.

“People aren’t ignoring what happened, but to see how they have coped and how the police and emergency personnel have responded is amazing. The Londoners I’ve met are determined to go on with their lives.”

Miss Hassler, in her first year as a special education teacher at St. Augustine’s Church of England Secondary School in north-central London, recalled that as she walked home Thursday afternoon, “The pubs were just as full as they always are. The British solution to everything is: Go to the pub.”

Classes were canceled yesterday and the early rush-hour traffic was lighter than usual, but Miss Hassler said the city’s buses were packed once again in the afternoon.

State Department spokesman Tom Casey said a department call center had received 483 inquiries about Americans thought to be in London at the time of the bombings, with about 375 inquiries still being reviewed. British authorities are still trying to get to victims at at least one of the subway bombing sites, but it is not expected that the U.S. casualty list will rise sharply.

Miss Hassler recalled yesterday that subway trains had been running chronically late Thursday morning, with long delays between trains. She boarded about 8:30 a.m. at Paddington Station — one stop away from Edgware Road.

“Had I waited just about 10-15 minutes, I would have been on the train that got hit at Edgware Road,” she wrote in e-mail to her parents Thursday.

While rumors were already flying when she arrived at St. Augustine’s, Miss Hassler said she did not learn of the coordinated bombing attacks until a 10:30 a.m. staff meeting.

The rest of the day was taken up with comforting students, trying to contact worried parents, and figuring a way to get the teachers and students home. The task was complicated because the school is located in the Westminster district, which was almost totally shut down by police and security officials.

Many of St. Augustine’s students come from Edgware Road and other neighborhoods targeted in the attacks, but Miss Hassler said apparently no students or teachers were harmed in the bombings.

A teacher at the school next door received a head wound from one of the blasts, but walked away from the site and arrived at school dazed and confused, she said.

Miss Hassler’s parents, retired Montgomery County educator Paul W. Hassler and his wife, Victoria Lynn, learned about the attacks from friends in London about 5:30 a.m. Thursday. Mrs. Hassler said they tried repeatedly to call their daughter because they knew she rode the Underground regularly to work.

They could not get through, but Miss Hassler called an hour later to let them know she was safe.

“Kristen was down in South Carolina at college when the September 11 attacks came,” Mrs. Hassler said. “She said that now we know what she went through trying to find out about us on that day.”

Miss Hassler said the strong suspicion that radical Islamist groups carried out the London attacks were ironic, given the city’s diverse population and huge Muslim minority.

“In my own school, 85 percent of the students are Muslim,” she said. “To attack London for the terrorists is like attacking their own people.”

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