The Personal Edit #3: The Borough Market Terror Attack
Warning - this post and the pictures included may be upsetting, particularly for those who were involved or knew someone involved in the Borough Market Terror Attack.
This post follows on from my last, so you may want to read that first to get some context here. We had been enjoying a wonderful day staying at The Shangri-La Hotel in The Shard to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We had planned to go for dinner somewhere in Borough Market, but after a delicious afternoon tea at TING we decided to take some snacks back to the room to enjoy the view. This decision may have saved our lives.
I was sat at our window admiring the view over London, using the binoculars they provide in the room to pick out particular landmarks I love in our city. Something caught my eye just below us and I noticed a group of police cars with flashing lights around a pub called The Southwark Tavern. Being nosey, I watched for a while and it seemed to be some sort of low level fight or argument and soon the action died down and I went back to scanning the city scape.
However half an hour or so later, again my attention was caught by something happening below. Our room gave us a wide view over London Bridge and Borough Market just below. I saw groups of people along the bridge and at first thought a cyclist had been knocked off their bike, as I saw one discarded on the floor and people gathering around someone. However when I noticed more separate groups along the bridge starting to gather I knew it couldn't just be one accident and the Westminster Bridge attack jumped to my mind. I immediately turned to my husband and said I'm watching a terror attack unfold.
My first thought was that people in the area around the market had no idea what threat was so close to them and I wanted to warn them. I felt fairly powerless up in our room, but when I turned on the TV and saw no one was reporting the incident, I felt I needed to get the word out. I started looking for ways of contacting news agencies and used twitter and whatsapp to let people know. I soon started receiving calls from news agencies and spoke live on TV to the BBC trying to explain what was unfolding in front of me.
Over the next few hours we had an unfortunate bird's eye view over the events unfolding. We saw ambulances arrive for the victims on the bridge and helicopters arrive with dogs presumably to sweep the bridge for explosives. We saw boats on the river looking for victims in the water. We saw police arrive to the van left on Southwark street and then armed police soon after. We heard the gun shots, that turned out to be killing the terrorists, and saw people running for cover, while police officers directed them. We spent hours watching as people were slowly evacuated from the area, some with hands above their heads, some wrapped in silver blankets, after the searches of the area had been completed.
We eventually decided to try and sleep around 3am but soon after we heard a number of loud explosions (we now believe to be controlled explosions carried out by the police) which shook the room and put the terrifying images of the twin towers in to my mind. However we were the lucky ones and were safe. The next morning we called the hotel reception to find out more information. We were fairly upset by the lack of information from the hotel (should we stay put? could we leave the room? etc) but later found that they had left a brief note outside our room saying we should stay inside. We we're told we could leave the hotel as the cordon ended just in front of the entrance and so we tried to plan a way home as London Bridge station obviously remained closed and we needed to get to the Northern Line. On checkout we were still pretty dazed about what we had seen and I found it really disconcerting when the staff member asked if we'd had a nice stay, but I understand he may not have known what else to say. My husband and I also appeared briefly on BBC news, having been re-contacted by them after speaking to them on the phone during the night, where we told them what we had seen. Looking back I somewhat regretted this, but I later heard from a friend that my posts sharing the news had helped people get in touch with family to check they were ok, so I hope our actions only helped rather than harmed.
We travelled home in a bit of a daze, our plans for that day forgotten. We felt unbelievably lucky. we made the right decision, and stayed at the hotel at the right time. We could so easily have been at least caught up if not injured or worse in the attack. We felt so sad and worried about those that had been involved, at this point many people were still missing and unaccounted for, with no names of victims having been shared. I'm still not sure what impact seeing it all unfold had on me, but I knew I couldn't let it make me scared.
We returned to the area on the Monday for the vigil at City Hall and laid flowers for those involved. We also went to the cafe at the base of the shard where we had planned to have breakfast that morning had those events not happened. More recently I went back to Borough Market and had lunch with a friend and was so happy to see the market bustling and busy as always. I bought one of their branded tote bags, with the proceeds going to the fund supporting businesses affected by the terror attack and the subsequent impact on the market. I refuse to let such small minded, brutal, angry people have an impact on my enjoyment of this beautiful city. I hope I haven't changed my actions because of them. I love London, my home and will never let anyone stop me from living my life to the full in it.