Yesterday London had cause to give thanks for the extraordinary valour and excellent training of its emergency services. Today Londoners go on stoically, determined never to give in to terrorism.
I have lived in and around London since the summer of 1986. I remember the terrible Kings Cross fire of 1987. I remember how my West Country-based family feared that I might be caught up in it. Kings Cross was a no-go area at night for a young woman in her twenties back then. How times change. The Kings Cross area is radically different. Safety on the Underground has been transformed too.
As Ireland buries Martin McGuinness, I cannot help but remember his IRA days like many others. I travelled to and from work as normal throughout the years of IRA terror. I heard the Docklands bomb go off in 1996. I was safe some three kilometres away.
I lived in Ealing when the IRA exploded a bomb in a pub there in 2001. It was alarming to consider how close it went off to my home. The pub was near the spot where I regularly crossed the main road with my younger son in his pushchair.
Recently I walked along beach past the Grand Hotel, scene of the Brighton bombing, with my elder son and his Irish girlfriend. Just last Sunday I enjoyed London’s St Patrick’s Day Parade in London. The children were adorable.
I have been evacuated from incidents twice in recent times. As a Londoner, I am conscious that not every incident finds its way into the papers and onto TV. As a member of the public I do not know if the incidents are rehearsals, false alarms, hoaxes or incidents of genuine concern.
The first incident was apparently caused by a traffic accident on Lambeth Bridge in Westminster. On the second occasion, a police officer stopped me and other members of the general public from walking along Marylebone High Street. I could see a large lorry stopped in the outside lane. Chillingly, it was the day of the women’s protest march in Trafalgar Square.
I do not know the outcome of the incident. I remember the eyes of the police officer as he assertively ushered people away. He believed that there was genuine danger. Yet he stood in harm’s way, just as PC Keith Palmer did yesterday and lost his life.
Today I send my condolences to those who have lost loved ones or have been injured in Westminster.
I give thanks to London’s wonderful, well-trained and brave emergency and security services who keep us safe.