"Let's go that way," says Sharon, pointing over towards a smaller street that leads off from this one. I know what she's getting at: we have to escape the crowds. Have to find some kind of shelter that's not going to be overwhelmed. We cross to the mouth of the side street and head down it. It's less crowded here: several scared-looking groups of people are scattered about, huddled against the walls as if hiding from all the chaos. They watch us with pleading eyes.
The further we go down the street the more quiet it becomes. There's still people fleeing in every direction, still men and women cowering in doorways and corners, but it's nothing like the brutal surging mass of people to be found out on the main road. The shudders still come at regular intervals, some stronger than others. Every so often the sound of an explosion will rumble through the air like thunder.
"There!" cries Sharon. She's pointing towards the ground floor of one of the buildings. It takes me a moment to figure out why, but then I see it. What I took at first to be a loading bay is actually a ramp leading down into the earth. It's an underground car park.
We run to it and down the ramp, passing in a couple of seconds from the noisy smoke-choked world of outside to somewhere cold and quiet, almost remote. There's no light to see by, and so we only have what little illumination filters in from the entrance with which to find our way. We slow down at once and feel our way along, ducking under the entrance barrier when we come to it. A little further in, our footfalls start to echo, and I know that we're in the main space of the car park.
"Wait a minute," I say. "Let our eyes adjust." And so we stand there, quite still, alone with our breathing as we wait to be able to see. A minute passes, then two. The floor shudders once and then is still, and the booming roll of an explosion reaches us, muffled and distant. I start to be able to make out shapes in the darkness: the space is bigger than I thought it was, and full of row upon row of cars. It looks like there might be another level below this one too, with a ramp leading down to it in the opposite wall. Lining the walls all around the great space are people, individuals and little groups, some sitting, some lying, some standing. I can only really make them out when they move, and even then they seem shadowy, little more than ghosts.
As soon as we can see, we start to move again. We make our way over to the far wall and find a space among the people there. Then, gratefully, we sink down onto the floor.
"Do you think we'll be safe here?" whispers Sharon.
"Of course we will," I say. "We'll be fine. We've just got to wait it out."
And then as soon as I've said that I start to cry. It comes out of nowhere, out of shock, a delayed reaction to all the horrendous things that have happened today. I hold Sharon tightly against me and I cry into her shoulder, and I'm thinking of all those poor people out there in the streets, all my colleagues at the office who--for all I know--are dead already. All my friends and family who must be watching this on TV, not knowing if I'm alive or dead. My own mother not even knowing if her son is okay.
The earth shakes again, and I hold Sharon tight, as if I can somehow save her from this. As if I can save anyone.