Everyone always says they remember exactly what they were doing, the day the media announced that Princess Diana had been killed in a car crash.
I now know what they mean.
When the four minute siren sounded I was standing in front of the vending machine in Andersen's canteen, deliberating whether I should buy a can of Coke or a can of Dr Peppers. Grandad Tom was standing next to me, holding a polystrene cup under the hot chocolate nozzle, pushing it against the lever, watching the rich scalding liquid gush out.
I will never forget the way Grandad Tom lifted his head at the sound of the siren, the way his eyes narrowed into slits, the way he muttered something under his breath, something unintelligible.
I will take that memory to my grave.
"What is it Grandad Tom? I said. "Is it the fire alarm? Is something on fire?"
When my grandad didn't answer me straight away, I thought he hadn't heard my question. I was just about to speak again, repeat myself, when Grandad Tom turned to face me. There was a look in his eyes that I had never seen there before, a look that started a million butterflies soaring and diving in my stomach.
"No son...it's not the fire alarm."
"Then what is it? What is it Grandad Tom?"
My grandad dropped to his haunches before me, he placed his hands on the tops of my arms. His fingers felt as cold as ice through the thin fabric of my sweatshirt. He looked into my eyes. I looked back into his. My mother once told me that you can see deep into a person's soul through their eyes. For the first time ever, I believed her. I could see my grandad's soul reflected clearly in the dark orbs of his pupils. It was a soul in torment.
"Davey," he said. "I need you to trust me. Can you do that?"
I nodded. Didn't he know I already trusted him implicitly? That I would follow him into the fiery depths of hell if that were where he should lead?
"Good lad." He said. "Now listen. I think we're in touble...bad trouble. We need to get out of this building and into safer shelter, and we need to do it quickly, understand?"
I nodded again. A heavy frown settled between my eyebrows and my mouth tightened into a thin hard line.
Without further ado, my grandad took my hand and pulled me out of the canteen.
As we raced across the gravel through the humid July heat, the sound of the siren chased us, nipping at out heels. My grandad kept snatching furtive glances up at the sky and I tried to follow his gaze, wanting to know what he was searching for. As a result twice I almost fell to my knees, after that I began to concentrate on trying to match my grandad's giant-size strides. Never before in all my life had I seen my grandad fazed, his feathers ruffled, but that morning he dragged me across those grounds in sheer panic. Blue eyes wild and rolling.
We came to a skidding halt beside a low sprawling sandstone building. Grandad Tom released the death grip on my hand, grasped the latch of the metal door before us and pushed it open.
TO BE CONTINUED...