On the night of the London Bridge terror attack, I was in London. I spent the weekend in London for my cousin’s hen party, and although we enjoyed our celebrations, I felt it wrong to do so. I cannot ever imagine how horrific it must have been for anybody involved or effected by the terror attack that took place on Saturday 3rd June 2017.
Being so close to a terrorist incident puts everything a little more into perspective. Previously I have been saddened by such events, however have always felt so distant from them – it’s as though the coverage on the news is all just a nightmare, and although watching it shows the reality, I have only viewed the aftermath through a TV screen and as I watch, I do not want to believe it is actually happening. Although I can try to empathise with anyone effected, I was never able to do so because how could you ever imagine being in the situation? So I’d steer my mind into thinking it’s far away from me and there’s not much I can do to help.
When you’re in a city at the time of an incident, it is terrifying. Although I was not directly involved, I have not been able to abolish from my mind what had happened.
For the few weeks previous to our London weekend, I was constantly reassuring my Mum we’d be okay. With her fears of cities and London growing in correlation with the increasing number of terrorist attacks, she was worried about the weekend. And for weeks I was reassuring her ‘We’ll be alright’, ‘London will have more security following the Manchester attack’, ‘the city will be on high alert’, ‘the emergency services will be prepared’. But I had a doubt in the back of my mind, and I felt bad for constantly saying ‘we’ll be fine’ without actually knowing or feeling confident in that myself. Over the days before our trip, I remember saying to myself ‘something is going to happen’, for some reason I just had an instinct that told me that there was going to be an incident on that Saturday night.
On our way to London my mind would not relax and all I kept thinking about was what I had said to myself. I started to picture things and I began to feel nervous and anxious about going out in the city.
Once I was there, things were okay, I’d calmed down and managed to reassure myself ‘it will all be okay, we’ll be alright’. Repeating this phrase over and over again, the hen weekend started and we went for a lovely afternoon tea on the Thames. When it came to paying the bill at the end I asked my mum to pay my part on her card; I only had cash and I told her we should keep the cash in case we need it later on in the day. After the afternoon tea voyage and a ride on the nearby carousel, we went back to our Airbnb to get ready for our night out.
The time had come, we were all dressed up for the night ahead, and leaving as a large group we made our way to a restaurant/bar/club in Soho (100 Wardour Street). Whilst enjoying ourselves we received a text at around 10.15pm, from my cousin who was not able to come on the weekend, asking if we were all okay and we were soon made aware that there had been reports of a terrorist incident at London Bridge. Not knowing fully what was going on, we made our way to the nightclub we were booked into for 11pm. Once I’d received signal news notifications were pouring onto my phone, updating me on the events of the night in London. With reportings of the incident on London Bridge and then in Borough Market alongside a reporting of an incident in Vauxhall (which at the time was not known to be unrelated) we were fearful that this wasn’t the end of the attacks. Running through my mind were worries that there were going to more attacks around the city, and although London is so big, I was terrified that there would be an incident where I was, just around 2 miles away from London Bridge.
Knowing I was so close to the incident, I felt completely out of place. I was not happy to dance and celebrate with people suffering just down the road. I found it hard to watch so many people fuelling themselves with alcohol and simply revelling in the club – maybe they were ignorant to the events but I was not willing to participate. So four of us from the hen party decided we just wanted to go back to our Airbnb, and get a cab straight to the door. I have a fear of tubes anyway and with everything going on in the capital, I just wanted to be back somewhere I felt comfortable. Leaving the club we wandered the streets, trying to find a main road to hail a black cab, but once we’d found one, all the cabs were driving straight past us, already full with passengers.
We waited what felt like a long time for a cab, and after being approached by many rickshaw cyclists offering their service, one cab driver slowed and wound down his window. He already had passengers, but after asking us where we wanted to go, he dropped them off down the road and returned to pick us up around five minutes later. I was so pleased to be in the cab, and as we were talking the driver said that he didn’t usually work on Saturday nights, but while at home with his family he had seen the news on TV and came out just wanting to get people home safely. I felt so grateful for his pure generosity and kindness, and after paying our driver – with the cash I had saved as a precaution from the afternoon tea – I was so thankful to be back in the apartment we were staying in. Although everybody from the hen party left the club in smaller groups at different times, we all got back safely.
For many days following the incident, I felt guilty. I felt bad for just running away from what had happened, just to get back to somewhere I felt safe. Although there was nothing I could do to help those who were involved, and I was a couple of miles down the road, I felt terrible for just running away. Because there was nothing I could do, I felt guilty. All those suffering and involved should never have been put in that situation, and I find it difficult to process the whole event and accept what had happened. It felt to me that the city had gone into a panic, other people out in the streets were simply wanting to get home, but it had become even harder to find a free cab. I panicked and just wanted to be somewhere I felt comfortable and safe, not enjoying celebrating just down the road from those suffering.
My Mum also found the days after very hard, constantly saying ‘what ifs’ and telling herself that there were ways we could have dealt with the situation a lot better than we had done. She was upset over how exposed we had left ourselves in the street when we were trying to get a cab. All I could do was say ‘But we’re okay’, and ‘We’re here now, so it doesn’t matter how we dealt with it at the time’. But for that I feel guilty. With the huge number of people who were sadly killed or injured, or those that were witness to what happened, as much as we try to erase the night from our minds, we know that their families and those survivors are left with their lives significantly changed in some way. They can’t just run away from what happened like I had done.
For weeks my mind has not been able to erase this night from my mind, and coming to terms with what happened has been difficult. I was so close to what happened and at the time I felt terrified, but now I’m left with the memories, the guilt and the what ifs…
What if I had been just 2 miles down the road? What would I have done? Did I do the right thing to run away from what had happened?
For this incident I could not steer my mind into thinking it’s far away from me and there’s not much I can do to help, because factually it wasn’t. I regretted telling my Mum nothing would happen in London that weekend.
I have been effected by what had happened, but I am so thankful that there are still so many good people in the world who would go over and above to help others to safety.