In London, A Bomb In The Basement Stirs Memories Of The Blitz : Parallels Hundreds of residents were evacuated after the World War II-era bomb was discovered at a construction site. Seniors in the area were reminded of their wartime experiences as children during the Blitz.
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In London, A Bomb In The Basement Stirs Memories Of The Blitz

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In London, A Bomb In The Basement Stirs Memories Of The Blitz

In London, A Bomb In The Basement Stirs Memories Of The Blitz

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

London was settled about 2,000 years ago, so there's some history there. And sometimes that history comes roaring into the present from the most unexpected places. NPR's Ari Shapiro reports now on an unpleasant surprise in an East London neighborhood.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Bethnal Green was virtually flattened by German bombs during the Second World War. But not all of those bombs detonated. And all of these decades later, people last night got a knock on their door. It was the police saying they would have to evacuate - an unexploded bomb had just been discovered in a nearby basement.

BERNIE LEWIS: The war ended when I was 5, you know? I was 5 years old.

SHAPIRO: Bernie Lewis is now 75 years old. He's lived here his whole life. When police evacuated him last night, it brought back some of his earliest memories of what it was like to live here during World War II.

LEWIS: It was terrifying really, you know what I mean? A terrifying experience. I was 3 years old. You know, you could hear the bomb, the V-2 bombers - they whistle (whistling), and once the whistle stops, they drop.

SHAPIRO: During the blitz, German planes dropped nearly 30,000 bombs on London in just three months. The one that construction workers unearthed yesterday is about a yard long and weighs 500 pounds. Bomb disposal crews worked through the night on the excavation while about 150 people who live within the blast radius slept in a nearby school.

FASANA BEGHUM: Missing the luxury of home, but what can you do (laughter)?

SHAPIRO: Fasana Beghum is 20.

BEGHUM: They've literally got rid of everybody. Like, how long is it? It's like, 200-meter radius or something? But that's a large amount of space. And could you imagine if it had gone off at some point in time, we would've all been dead. And now we're being evacuated. It's a bit ridiculous.

SHAPIRO: These kinds of discoveries are actually fairly run-of-the-mill in London. Matthew Burrows is with the London Fire Brigade.

MATTHEW BURROWS: It's becoming less as we find more and more of them. But, you know, each year we do have, you know, at least one or two devices that are found of this size. They can't actually just physically just pick it up and carry it out the doorways 'cause the doorways aren't big enough. So what they're having to do is create openings within the building.

SHAPIRO: Does this make history come alive for you in a different way?

BURROWS: Yeah, it's always nice to see the history of London. But it would be nice if it wasn't in such a location, really.

SHAPIRO: At the perimeter of the bomb disposal area, a garbage truck is loitering with three frustrated trash collectors. Gary Coules is trying to figure out what to do.

GARY COULES: Well, we've got - must have over eight, nine ton of rubbish, you know? We just can't get it here, you know?

SHAPIRO: Because there's a World War II bomb.

COULES: That's right.

SHAPIRO: That's not a typical day.

COULES: Well, no, no. It's making us late and all.

SHAPIRO: A piece of history, a deadly weapon, a 75-year-old relic of World War II - on this morning, just another obstacle on the trash collectors' route. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, London.

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