Reflections from London 23.2.17

This week started off as any other week, we all came into work, got on with our business and went home again.  Outside these offices, the helicopters continued to circle above us, as they do every afternoon.  They have become part of the landscape and it makes us feel safe.  We have even got to know the different types and their names.

On Wednesday afternoon their absence wasn’t noted until a colleague told me the shocking news from Westminster, only two tubes stops from these offices.  As the news unfolded that afternoon we were all shocked but each of us knew instinctively that the police and rescue services would be react speedily.  Clearly “our helicopters” had been called elsewhere.
In spite of this event we all carried on calmly working and went home in the usual way.  The mood was more sombre but living in London means we already know there is a risk and we choose to get on with it, and that is what we did.

There was a rallying cry from Sadiq Khan, the London Mayor to gather for a vigil at Trafalgar Square the following evening.  We were called to respond to a “peaceful call to arms”.  Thousands of people negotiated their way into the square, weaving through the traffic, all trying to be patient with each other and with a common purpose, to remember those who have lost loved ones and pay respect to those who had died.

The mood was respectful, people were quiet, everyone honoured the minute’s silence.  The police did what they had to do as unobtrusively as possible.  This was a time for us all to come together, and that is what we did, from all nations, backgrounds and beliefs.

I spoke to a couple from Canada, their home town also called London.  They had come to this London as it was their “favourite city in the world” and felt compelled to join us all.

I bumped into a young friend unexpectedly.  She is an intern at the House of Commons.  She described how she had been on her own when she heard the news.  She followed the lock down procedure and waited until all was clear, letting her family know she was safe.  It had been a shock but yet she together with her young friend came out last night to show their respect.
At the end of the vigil, which was simple but hit the right note of sombreness, we were invited to stay on and mingle.  This we did.  Candles were spontaneously lit, flowers left at the steps, people huddled together and there was a collective coming together.

If the intention of the terrorist was to cause division then it clearly failed.  Instead, we have remembered that what unites us all is our humanity and so people have made an extra effort to be kinder, more patient with each other and more determined to carry on business as usual.

Sinead Cartwright