We almost walked right into the London Bridge terror attack. Thankfully, a friend of a friend’s warning text message arrived just in time to stop us from heading into the heart of the onslaught. A celebratory night out for a birthday in Central London immediately transformed into an agonizingly tense journey to safely reach home.
Proximity to the London Bridge Terror Attack
The threat of a London terror attack has loomed large for the past year, even after the recent attack in March. Last summer the Underground station nearest my work set off a controlled explosion of a mysterious object. My route was changed when London Bridge station was evacuated due to a suspicious empty car. London St. Pancras played their emergency announcement early on the autumn morning I caught the Eurostar to Paris, which also experienced an atrocious attack from misled Islamic extremists.
The stern voice clearly directed: “Attention… Attention… There has been an emergency… Please locate the nearest exit immediately.” And repeated, over and over.
My imagination conjured horrible images about what was happening elsewhere in the station as my legs automatically carried me towards the exit. My ears strained for gunshots, shouting, any commotion that would alert me where the chaos was, but I heard only silence as the announcement stopped. I only met one other man at the exit, but when I slowly went back the direction I came from, everyone else was still queuing to board the Eurostar. Eventually, I was reassured that the announcement had been a false alarm and continued on my journey.
A Tense Journey Home
The restaurant atmosphere remained the same. But the knowledge that the London Bridge terror attacks occurred so near to us, only minutes before, set us on edge. First, terrorists ploughed a car into innocent passers-by on the bridge before charging into a restaurant, armed with knives. As we planned our route home, news flashed up of the attackers in Borough Market. Who knew what would happen next?
A brief eerie walk through quiet streets brought us to Bank station. The underground gates were open and strained staff abruptly directed us to exit the station by jumping on the nearest tube. There were no fares to pay; everyone hurried through. The platform crowded quickly and he two-minute wait, warily watching other passengers for strange behavior was exhausting. Switching onto the Victoria line was much the same, and it felt so out of place when the surprisingly sassy staff member told us not to crowd on the tube. “Don’t worry, it’s not the last tube of the night, people. There’s one in just a few minutes.” We squeezed on, noticing that some of the passengers were clueless to the London Bridge terror attack.
The quarter hour wait for our train at Victoria was almost unbearable, watching policemen glimpsing the terrible news on their phones and hearing about more violence in Vauxhall, that was only later recognized as unrelated. But by holding hands (and with held breath), we all made it home safely.
#LondonIsOpen: “Everyone Welcome,” “Todos Bienvenidos” and a welcome sign with traditional Chinese characters
Edited into a sketch because my photo from a moving bus wasn’t great.
Processing the London Bridge Terror Attack
I woke up next to my husband with a heavy heart, but also with an overflowing sense of gratitude: gratitude to be alive and safe at home, gratitude for the police officers and security staff that put their life on the line, gratitude for the everyday heroes that were recognized by the news (like the Lion of London Bridge) – and those who remain nameless, and gratitude for everybody that offered food, shelter and transportation for those in need.
The evening before the London Bridge terror attack, I rode on top of a double decker bus through central London. I happily read the “London Is Open” banners, strewn throughout the city in various languages. It is disgusting that terrorists want to harm citizens of such an inclusive, global community. Bu it seems that we all come together during these difficult times and go back to our interconnected lives, prevailing.