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.
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.