Jeffrey Blum survived the bombing of the Baltic Exchange by the IRA on 30 St Mary Axe, the site that is now occupied by the Gherkin. I interviewed him in 2012 ahead of the 20th anniversary commemorative dinner being held in aid of the Felix Fund, (the charity that supports bomb disposal experts and their families). My usual pre event research becoming hugely important this time as tragically Paul Butt, Thomas Casey and Danielle Carter all died in the bombing (I remember holding tightly onto a note with their names on during my talk, to make sure I read each one out correctly). I had talked to Jeffrey at length about his miraculous escape – the force of the explosion meant that the engine of the van the bomb was planted in crashed through a window in the 17th floor of neighbouring Tower 42 and blew Jeffrey up into the air. He landed on top of the rubble of newly shattered seven storey building and was taken to Barts Hospital, arriving with only a single pint of blood left in his body… The Queen was his first non family visitor.
Jeffrey had been invited to the commemorative dinner, but had declined because it was being held at the top of the Gherkin. He had vowed never to step inside. After we spoke then he told me that if anyone could entice him out of his personal boycott it would be me – he would let me know.
Two years later.
We meet outside the Gherkin at 3pm on April 10th on the spot where 22 years before the bomb had nearly killed him. Jeffrey had got in touch two days before, It was time to move on he said, was my offer still open... It was. Entering the building was a momentous moment for Jeffrey, I was honoured to accompany him and we were both quite emotional by the time we reached the top of the building. I had told everyone I could think of that Jeffrey Blum was coming in and what a big occasion it was for him so everywhere we went people were saying hello, welcoming him and congratulating him on his personal milestone. I think that helped.
After photos and time to reflect we left and went next door to the new Baltic Exchange, “in return for showing me your building, let me show you mine” Jeffrey had said. I had never been inside before - I loved it, particularly all the exquisite model ships on display in glass cases.
Jeffrey tells me that surviving the bombing made him value every single moment of his life since – and meeting him today reminded me to value every single moment of mine.