Paris Tragedy A Reminder Of Past Horrors

Last week’s horrific events in Paris touched every Westporter. We wondered how such things can happen. We talked about religion, freedom and humanity. We thought about France, and looked in new ways at America.

The news hit Westport’s Bart Shuldman and his wife wife Sue especially hard. In 1996 they were eyewitnesses to an IRA bomb that demolished a London bus.

Bart helped save the driver’s life. Nearly 20 years later, he remains haunted by the event. He calls such violence “truly devastating. It is worse than any picture could portray.”

That February day, Bart and Sue had just arrived in London. They boarded a taxi to their hotel. At a red light, a bus traveling from a different direction turned, then exploded right in front of them.

The taxi driver screamed. Bart and Sue watched in horror as the bus continued to travel, while opening up like a can.

The taxi driver asked what they should do. Bart said, let’s go help.

The aftermath of the 1996 IRA bus bombing in London.

The aftermath of the 1996 IRA bus bombing in London.

Not knowing if there were more bombs, they followed the bus until it stopped.  The taxi stopped. Bart and the driver jumped out.

The driver grabbed a fire extinguisher, and went to one side of the bus. Bart went to the other side.

He heard noises. It was the bus driver, who had been hit from behind by the blast. The taxi driver, meanwhile, said he’d discovered a body in 2 parts, on fire. It was the bomber.

Bart got the driver out from the rubble, and carried him to the sidewalk.  His head was bleeding badly. Bart knew the victim could not hear him, so he had the man focus on Bart’s mouth. Bart wanted to keep talking, so the man would not pass out and die in his arms.

It took a while for an ambulance to arrive. Police and medics waited a long time, as people screamed there were more bombs.

Finally, Bart was escorted back to the taxi. Sue was there, scared. Bart at been gone nearly an hour.

The bus driver survived. But he never worked again.

“These acts are more violent than any TV news report can show,” Bart says. “The destruction is horrible. The impact to a body is something you cannot imagine.”

Nearly a decade later, he is not sure why he jumped in to help. Perhaps — just as the entire world is trying to make sense of the news from France — it takes a horrible tragedy for each of us, individually, to find out something about ourselves.



6 responses to “Paris Tragedy A Reminder Of Past Horrors

  1. Bart, so sorry you had to experience such violence first hand. It’s impossible to understand these tragedies, so difficult to find answers.
    As far as Paris, I was disappointed that both the U.S and Canada didn’t send senior representatives to yesterday’s rally (at least Biden or Kerry, or Holder who was in Paris at the time; also, no sign of Stephen Harper… strange, considering our own recent tragedy on Parliament Hill).

    • Bart Shuldman

      Nancy-thanks. When 9/11 happened, the first foreign leader to come to the U.S. was from France. Chirac I believe.

      Our response was to send nobody. It is hard to understand the thinking in the White House-how will we be judged when we send not one person. This is not political-when you see the Palestinian leader with the Israeli leader-you know this is important. Yet what did we do?

      As for seeing the result of the violence, you realize some have totally lost their perspective of life. And how precious it all is.

  2. As I watched the horror unfold last week, I could not help making a connection to this incident with the Westport Education 2025 initiative begun in all Westport public schools five years ago. What we saw on television was the result of ignorance and a disdain for education and honest discourse. There are places in our own country where real education is not valued as well; communities in which students are prohibited from questioning data, questioning teachers, and questioning the system. The Westport initiative is framed around four domains: Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Communication, and Global Citizenry. We want our Staples students to leave here knowing how to solve problems working with others. We want them to know how their solution to a problem might impact someone from the other side of the globe. We want our students to be confident problem solvers and not shy away from ambiguity. We want our students to honor other cultures and to work with people very different from us to solve big problems facing all humans. How fortunate our students are to have parents who decided to live in Westport and who value true education. I am honored to be part of it.

    • I’ll be interested to read the “Team Westport” essays (re “Food for Thought” post), as Westport would be considered by some communities as “homogeneous”. Also, wondering if Staples still has an American Field Service Club to support incoming foreign students? Or, a support for the LGBT community?

      • Staples does not have an AFS club. However, there are students from other countries via the Rotary Club. It is not an “exchange” program, though. And there is a very robust Gay-Straight Alliance. Staples had the first one in any Connecticut public school, dating back to 1993 (and co-founded by yours truly).