It’s been little over than a week now.
It was a grey but warm afternoon in London and I was so thrilled to have one of my dearest friends in town with me. Mara and I have been close friends for over 18 years and I have been trying to convince her to come to visit me in London for over a decade, and she finally did. She book her flight the previous day – yes, we Portuguese women can be quite spontaneous, and there we were, in the heart of London, with that majestic site: The London Eye was just over our heads and the landscape was dominated by Benjamin, also called the Big Ben.
The smile in Mara’s face was real. And so was mine, as I was so proud to finally show my city and my life to someone that is so dear to me.
And you need to start with a bang, so after dropping her bags and a quick lunch we got on a short bus ride to the iconic Westminster, the soul of London.
Mara and I were just walking towards the London Eye, when we noticed that something wasn’t quite right… but we were so excited to be there that our senses were pretty much blinded to the outside… yes, we could hear the sirens … police? Ambulances? Well, that is common in London. Then was the helicopters… a bit strange I admit but London Eye and that Thames view were magic, so we couldn’t stop taking pictures….
Eventually we started receiving text messages from our dear ones in Portugal, asking if we were ok and warning us about the attack.
I am not gonna deny that our first reaction was kinda ignoring… I don’t even know why, but guess that the idea of “attack” just didn’t make sense in that situation, so we kinda brush it off… but then I have start receiving News Alerts talking about the “Westminster Attack” and that’s when I realize… people had a strange look in their faces… and the London Eye suddenly stopped. Now, London Eye never stops – during the day, so I knew it has to be something really serious, and instantly everything made sense…
The sky had now 5 helicopters and the traffic was completely stopped at Westminster bridge. Then we saw the blue lights… they were everywhere in fact… police, ambulance, fire brigades… all that time it was there… right in front of us. And we were getting closer and closer as the Westminster bridge was our destination.
We weren’t sure about what exactly was happening.. Some people mentioned guns, police being stabbed, bombs… a bit of a Chinese whispers, and the news wasn’t exactly clear. One of my sisters is a criminologist working with MET, so she asked us to get out of the center or any crowded place. So we left.
Even tho we weren’t sure what was happening and was being hard to digest the situation, there was a thought that wouldn’t come out of my head… I couldn’t quite process the fact we were on our way to the Westminster bridge when it all happened. And I revisited the last few hours and how if we were 15/20min earlier the chances we would be at that bridge during the attack were undoubtedly huge.
My original plan was to get on the tube and go straight to Westminster station – where everything happened, as I wanted Mara to see the Big Ben for the first time exactly the same way I did, coming out of the station and have “him” there, mighty, right in front of me. So very glad that at the last minute I have decided to take the bus instead of the underground train so she could see the sights – even if that meant the bus taking a little longer that the train. That alone perhaps saved our lives. Or what about when I was showing my room to Mara and we put some music on? Yeah because then we end up laughing, singing and dancing up to four Spice Girls songs, exactly 15/20 min. If we left the house without the singing, could we be in that bridge during the tragedy? Yes, that is were we probably be… and to come to that realization really was mind blowing.
You see, I have been so many times in situations of “danger” or situations considered dangerous. But would that stop me? Would I stop exploring and enjoying myself? Would that stop us? Would we miss the opportunity of enjoying the beauty Westminster has to offer?
So where do we go next day?
We went where we were supposed to be the previous day.
We went to the Westminster bridge and spent over an hour marveling the beautiful sites and landmarks, taking pictures and laughing.
We believe we should be passing a very strong and important message.
We didn’t feel like we were being disrespectful towards the people that lost their lives. Our hearts broke for their families and loved ones and we are genuinely sad with what happened.
But we will not be afraid. And we will not generalize.
That was a hateful act of a sick person that does not represent an entire race, or religious creed. Good people get murdered everyday everywhere in the world, the difference is that happened in the heart of my city, and obviously made me desolated but that shall not stop me to live.
We are not here to pass by or to survive. We are here to live and enjoy ourselves.
And hope you do it too.
And remember, Don’t be afraid! Don’t generalize. Don’t be hateful. Don’t let hate win.
As for us, I am happy to say, that even Mara first day in London was a sad one, she felt in love with this wonderful city and we made the best we could to have an incredible time, which we did. She will return soon.