I visited Borough Market last week. It’s the first time I’ve been this year and although some of the photographs I took didn’t have many people visible, it was very busy with the usual vibrant atmosphere.
As the London Bridge attacks began on the 3rd June 2017, I was walking south across Waterloo Bridge on my way home with my family after seeing the musical, 42nd Street. We were all happy and still buzzing from the spectacle of the previous few hours but were alerted to danger by the sight of hundreds of emergency vehicles with their blue lights causing the night sky to take on a different hue, pouring south across the Thames. The sound of sirens filled the air as we picked up speed to escape our very vulnerable position mid-way across the bridge. Not only were the vehicles pouring south over Waterloo Bridge, but looking up and down stream, we could see the same thing happening on the bridges in both directions. Looking over our shoulders we saw that the Embankment also had a stream of blue-lighted vehicles progressing rapidly towards the danger.
It was too early for news to have broken in the media but we sensed danger and got off the bridge as quickly as possible, opting to avoid crowds by crossing the roof of the Hayward Gallery. From this vantage point we could see nothing, but the sound of the sirens being deflected off taller buildings, became deafening.
Until we reached ground level we had no idea whether we were walking into danger or not as we were unable to pinpoint the direction the vehicles were heading. Once we descended the steps we realised we were probably safe as we met no crowds of people fleeing.
As we approached Waterloo Station we walked past several restaurants full of people enjoying a Saturday night out and everything in the station appeared normal. As we waited for a train we looked on Twitter and found early reports of the horrors that had been happening a short distance away. At that time it was thought that a third attack was happening at Vauxhall, a station we pass through on our way to and from London. This was later reported to be unconnected but at the time it added to our sense of unease and anxiety. Being unable to settle once we reached home, we sat and watched as the media began to broadcast reports from the multiple scenes.
As hours and days passed I was able to put my experience into some sort of cohesive order. Despite the horror everyone feels upon hearing of these atrocities, certain things stand out. The thing that I was most struck by was the bravery of the first responders who, in these situations, run into danger. I know they train for this and are better equipped to deal with it than members of the public but it runs against every natural instinct of a human being.
My family and I found ourselves on the fringes of this particular attack but we weren’t in any danger. We went to a show, walked to the station and boarded a train home, but our proximity to the danger emphasizes how much a part chance plays in these things. If we’d been to a different theatre we may have been walking over London Bridge or if the attackers had chosen Waterloo Bridge we’d have been caught up in events. Although I am more alert, I intend to continue visiting London regularly and applaud the crowds of people I saw this week doing exactly the same thing.