Wednesday 22nd March 2017 was a weird day. In many ways, it was completely unremarkable. I’m lucky in that, for my job, I get to do a lot of work on twitter so I was checking our feed when I noticed a tweet about reported shots fired in Westminster.
Within minutes, or even seconds, more of the story was developing. I was giving everyone else in the office the information that was coming through as I saw it reported on Twitter.
My office is about a fifteen minute drive away from Parliament so there was never a major concern for our safety. We carried on working throughout and didn’t leave the office so much as a minute early. The office is on the ground floor of a very busy road, though, and we listened to endless police cars streaming past in packs. Three or four would tear down the street, usually about five or ten minutes apart, for what seemed like hours. I couldn’t believe that so many police were available, let alone that all of them were needed at once. It made the whole situation feel uncomfortably close.
The more information that filtered through to us, the more terrifying it got. Some people were cracking jokes. Others were still on lunch and had no idea, or were trapped in dull meetings when they would rather have their eyes glued to the news.
Westminster is a huge employment centre, so a few people were checking up on friends and relatives, myself included. Meanwhile, my friends and family from around the UK were checking to see if I was alright. That seemed strange to me. Of course I wouldn’t be around Westminster at 3pm on a Wednesday; I would be chained to my desk. It still didn’t seem like there should be any cause for concern.
Then I saw that #PrayForLondon started trending. It seemed bizarre that people worldwide would be thinking of the whole city when this hideous attack was confined to one bridge and a street corner. Saying #PrayForNice and Paris and Brussels seemed to necessary when I heard about attacks on TV. But now people were showing solidarity with us and it felt odd. Unreal.
The weirdest part of the day was leaving the office as usual. It felt like everything should have changed, but the streets were as busy as normal at rush hour. It did seem more quiet in terms of volume, but I can’t be sure if that was my imagination. What meant a lot more to me, though, was that the pubs were still full. People were still dining out, refusing to cancel evening plans because of one crazed man who took away innocent lives without reason. Surely a night in the capital on the 22nd March was going to be even more safe than the night proceeding it? With all the extra police presence, it felt like we were protected and ready for anything.
On my way home from work tonight, I saw seven police officers between the tube station and my home. Seven. At work today, a few people refused to come into London for meetings, deeming it ‘unsafe’. But the Londonders? We carried on as usual. I got onto the same tube carriage at the same spot of platform as I had the day before. There weren’t even delays.
And yet there are less people going about their business in London today than there were before these brutal murders took place on our streets. My heart hurts for those people who didn’t make it home last night.
I still can’t get my head around it. That such violence could happen a stone’s throw away from me. That someone could have that much hate and release it on people going to pick up their kids from school or simply doing their job.
London won’t be the same. We will remember. But more than anything, I saw the incredible resility that this capital has to offer. We keep calm (though anger can be expected in this situation), and we carry on. Always have done. Always will do.
My thoughts are with the victims and their families. I can’t begin to imagine what they are all going through.