I was there

My experience during the London Bridge attack

My experience in London this year was like a movie, like the first episode of Lost or the first book in the Percy Jackson series; it was surreal and totally unexpected.

My trip may have been short, but my experiences were long lasting. The beginning of my trip was like the beginning of any suspenseful movie: pleasant and serene. I enjoyed myself by scourging down crisp, golden fish and chips, walking down Baker Street with my Sherlock Holmes hat, and watching a couple take their wedding pictures in front of Big Ben. Simple moments like enjoying a cup of hot chocolate in the light rain were what I hoped would define this trip, but what made this trip truly unforgettable and life changing is what happened at the London Bridge.

That night, I remember running in the rain trying to protect my recently bought souvenirs and then finally catching my breath atop the London Bridge. After taking a few pictures, my mom and I walked along the bridge and watched ships pass underneath and toward the Tower Bridge ahead of us. Before we left for the brightly lit bridge, we stopped at a street stall for a cup of hot chocolate. If it weren’t for my brother’s need to go back to our hotel and sleep, my mom and I would’ve stayed 10 minutes longer to walk up and down that bridge.

Editor-in-Chief, Yusra Waris posing in front of the London Bridge sign.

However, since we were in a hurry, we found a shortcut to the Tower Bridge, took some more pictures, stopped at a grocery store and then proceeded to go back to the metro by the London Bridge. On our walk back, we were looking at the pictures we had taken for the day and comparing our last trip to London to what we did that day.

It was late at night so the streets were pretty much silent except for distant club music and police sirens. In fact, the nearer we got to the London Bridge, the more police sirens I heard. I was first to notice the unusual number of police cars heading in our direction, and for a second I was a little worried that something big happened. But my parents reassured me by saying there was probably some traffic problem in our area. Five more minutes into our walk, the intensity of the police sirens grew and helicopters were closing in.

I then pressed that we go back the other way because with all of my action movie experience, I knew helicopters and the unusual number of police sirens were a huge sign there was a serious problem. However, my gut feeling was passed off as being cowardly and we were getting closer not knowing that during the 10 minutes we were away from the bridge, there was a series of vehicle and knife attacks.

Upon reaching the scene, my family was blinded by lights and amid all the chaos we heard someone scream “Run! Get out of here!” Before I had the chance to say “I told you so,” we were pushed in the other direction onto a double decker bus that was supposed to be off duty for the night. Families, in their native languages, were discussing what might had happened in hushed whispers. Others were on their phones checking social media to see what happened and contacting their loved ones who were on the bridge with them. The bus stopped a couple of blocks away from the London Bridge, and we were ordered to run onto the next bus.

During our escape, we found another Indian family and decided to stay together to find the nearest metro. On the second bus, the news about the terrorist attack that was taking place a few blocks away came out and that there were more attacks in the areas surrounding us. Tears began to blind my vision and a lump formed in my throat, there was a chance that my family might not make it out unscathed. However, it was amazing to see that under such pressuring circumstances, all these strangers came together, offering comfort and calmly showing us the safest place to find an underground train back to our hotel.

Following the other family, we finally found a station. Knowing we were safe at the moment, I pulled out my phone and recorded the police cars racing toward the bridge. We boarded a train headed towards the airport and got off at Hounslow West station, waiting for a bus to take us to a street five minutes away from our hotel. To add to the chaos we had already faced that night, it turned out we took the bus going the wrong direction. It was past midnight, and we had to wait for 15 minutes at a bus stop right in front of a club where I saw a half-naked drunk man tossed out onto the street and handled by the cops.

By 1:58 a.m., we finally reached our hotel and put on the news to find the growing number of casualties in the area. I was exhausted from the long day, but I wasn’t able to sleep so I spent the night praying and reliving the situation over and over again.

Knowing that we left the London bridge 10 minutes before the attack started and how we were saved again on our way back to the bridge makes me feel insanely lucky and grateful. From that moment onward, all I can think about is how I can make my mark on the world because we never know what might happen the next minute or even second.