Sharon Forsyth was in a strange way, a cute little girl. Along with fourteen of her classmates she was dressed in her school uniform which consisted of a brown overcoat buttoned up to her neck. It was about two sizes too big for her but as her mummy said, ‘She’ll grow into it, as long as it doesn’t fall to pieces first.’ Her shoes and socks were also brown.
The only thing that made her stand out from the rest of her friends was that she was the only one clutching a teddy bear under her left arm. It was a day out for him as well as her because he had never seen Tower Bridge either. Bertie, as Sharon called him, used to have bright yellow fur but over the five years she had owned him, this had turned to a form of dirty orange colour with eyes that were large and brown. The little changes in Bertie didn’t matter because they were always together and always would be. There were a few drawbacks with always having a teddy bear with you. One was that other people would sometimes want to hold him, and you were at times, worried that you wouldn’t get him back.
The other was with people like Kyle Bingham a little trouble causer, who was in the same class as Sharon. He always called her names for having a teddy bear. Things like, ‘Sharon the soft sod’. She didn’t care really because she knew that she wasn’t soft, and she didn’t know what a sod was.
Anyway, she thought he was a wanker. She didn’t know what a wanker was either but she knew that it had to be bad because her daddy shouted it at other people as he drove her to school.
Miss Pennington, the teacher who had been put in charge of the school trip, clapped her hands to gain the children’s attention. At twenty six years of age, which, when looking through the eyes of a child, was the equivalent of being two hundred years old, this was her first teaching post and she was eager to impress the more experienced members of staff that accompanied her. “Quiet please,” she shouted, once again clapping her hands. “I want you all to stay in two lines and make sure that you are holding the hand of the person next to you. We’re going into the information centre on the bridge, where a lady will tell you all about the history of this landmark, which I am sure you will find very interesting.”
On entering the information centre, everyone was welcomed by Mrs Handley, the Information Officer.
“Good morning children,” she said, her eyes dropping to the piece of paper held in her right hand which contained details of the tour, as well as acting as a reminder if she ever forgot her lines.
“Welcome to Tower Bridge. This is not to be confused with London Bridge which lies a few miles away. If you want to ask any questions, raise your hand and I’ll do my best to answer them.” She looked at all the small faces staring at everything, except her. There were no raised hands.
“This is the most famous bridge in the world. In a few minutes, we’ll be going into one of the towers where there is an exhibition, showing you the history of the bridge. We’ll then go along the high level walkway, which is one hundred and forty feet above the River Thames. We’ll then go into the other tower and come back down again. Now, if you’d all like to follow me.”
Sharon Forsyth lifted Bertie so that he could look through one of the observation windows and saw one of the large sightseeing cruisers, loaded with tourists, slowly making its way along the river towards them. Sharon smiled and hugged Bertie closer to her.
The children were filing out of the first tower, having seen the exhibition that it contained. They made their way along the high level walkway, marvelling at how far they could see. Sharon looked down, just in time to see the sightseeing cruiser begin its journey under the bridge.
The shockwave from the explosion hit them first, knocking some of them into the tower wall, heads and backs breaking instantly. Others were blown off the walkway, plummeting one hundred and forty feet into the ice cold waters below. The far tower erupted as the explosion ripped through it. The walkway broke away from the main structure and fell onto the road beneath it, crushing cars and people with such ease that they could have been made from paper. The central lower span of the bridge was just able to withstand all of this added weight. That is, until the tower top slowly toppled forward and hung for an instant, as though looking at the carnage below it. It then started its descent. The road below took the full impact of the heavy falling masonry and finally, crumpled under the tremendous strain.
The ‘Pride of the Thames’ was passing under the bridge when the passengers on the upper deck heard the explosion, the sound having an unearthly resonance to it, as it echoed off the stone bridge pillars. Some of the people looked up, just in time for them to see the bridge falling towards them. Their screams were drowned out by the crashing of the structure onto the boat. Such was the force and weight of the falling bridge, that the vessel was split into two pieces, each of which sank immediately. The whole incident lasted a little over two and a half minutes. Shockingly, in this short period of time, one of the major landmarks in the world had disappeared, and the agonising screams had stopped.
Now in its place, there was only silence. In the muddy waters of the River Thames a teddy bear bobbled to the surface, its large brown eyes looking to the skies, its fur, now tinged with red. Alongside it floated a brown overcoat, probably about two sizes too big for its owner, who would never grow into it.