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I Thought I Was Involved In A Terrorist Attack And It Was Traumatising

I Thought I Was Involved In A Terrorist Attack And It Was Traumatising

Ever since the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks I become worried about my safety after living in London for years. One Black Friday evening changed everything.

I live in London for over five years now, and it wasn’t until the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks that I felt unsafe in my city. Since then any loud noise or over-crowded streets would set me off until I thought I was involved in a terrorist attack and it was traumatizing. 

A Bit Of Context

Ever since the catastrophic wave of terrorist attacks had placed fear into our daily scheme of emotions, London had a target on its back. It was  2017, so Europe has already gone through a lot. 

At this time I already had my journalism degree, so during the devastating Paris attacks in November of 2015, my classmates and I were studying journalism what meant, we were glued to any medium providing up-to-date news coverage. While the events unveiled, for a journalism student it was quite thrilling. 

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However, it also meant that we were more cautious than others. In other words, we avoided big crowds, main shopping streets like Oxford Street and the Westfield shopping centers, which were considered likely targets. 

One of my best friends and I were confident that one day we would be caught up in one of these attacks. We had tickets for Ariana Grande show in London, but it ended up being canceled as the Manchester arena bombings happened a few days prior. It may sound like nothing, but we felt like we dodged a bullet. 

A week later, it was the Champion’s League finale, and we were planning to celebrate Real Madrid’s win,  which would have meant we would have to pass through London Bridge where a terrorist vehicle rammed into pedestrians, and a stabbing occurred. 

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Following all of these attacks, London became a place where it was only a matter of time for me to witness a tragedy like acts of terror. 

What Happened?

It was a Black Friday. My best friend and I were never the biggest fans of Black Friday shopping sprees, so we decided to stay at home. However, her friend was visiting London for the first time, so we made plans to go for drinks around the Oxford Circus area.

They left the house earlier, so we were planning to meet up later. My family was flying in for my graduation, and as a surprise, I went to buy them flowers and tea biscuits. 

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As I was leaving the store that was underground, a security guard shouted ‘run.’ You could hear the urgency in his voice. Some other people were shouting from the street while running inside the store ‘there’s a shooter on the loose’. At this particular moment, I had a choice either to stay frozen or run and turn my back that could have been shot at any second. 

Probably one of the worst feelings one could ever experience. Thinking you might die and you can’t do anything about it. The instant I turned my back I said to myself ‘it is happening now, you knew it had to come someday.’ The whole store was on their knees trying to escape through the fire exit. 

We leave the store up the stairs, and everyone keeps still. We don’t know where to go, because we don’t actually know what’s happening. People are crying, screaming, calling their loved ones as something very horrible was about to happen to all of us. 

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I didn’t want to worry anyone from my family, so I just called my best friend thinking she is alright and it only happened where I was. We couldn’t reach each other. As soon as she picked up, I burst into tears, and she did the same. 

I was at Bond Street where I thought around the corner was a shooter. She was close to Oxford Circus tube station where a sudden panic caused a mob of people to fall and walk all over each other. They ended up being trapped at the closest bar they could find because they were told there was a shooter. 

At this point, it was all chaos. We were running for our lives, and others were strolling and looking at us like we were crazy. I was running until I could find a taxi as all the roads around the Oxford Street area were closed up. Then, I hopped into a cab as the driver realizes I’m not okay. 

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I lived pretty far away so at least I listened to the radio and their so-called quick news coverage. As a news junkie, I have push notifications set up from BBC Breaking News. They were useless. The whole city was still in shock and didn’t really know what was happening. There was no prompt response from the authorities, and my friends were still stuck in a bar because they were too afraid to leave. 

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When we all arrive at home hours later, we discussed what we just went through. The emotions were heightened, and we still didn’t have any clear answers. 

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What Really Happened?

Can you imagine going through something like this thinking you were involved in a terrorist attack and at the end, you find out nothing really happened? Let me tell you this. I’m glad that no one got hurt and we were fortunate enough to have gone through a mix of confused sounds that led to this panic instead of real gunshots. 

At Bond Street’s Selfridges, people got scared by a noise sounding a lot like gunshots. Everyone would get scared right away, especially when all of the other terrorist attacks were happening in the world. A famous singer Olly Murs sent a tweet that may have caused the panic that has spread out. 

Daily Mail posted a fake news tweet that was old. The tweet was also talking about a vehicle that has gone crazy crashing into people. The instructions people got were what caused the lockdowns or running out in the streets. It was a misfortunate event of total confusion and a swift word of mouth. 

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So yeah, nothing happened. It feels like it was a false alarm or an exercise when the real thing would come. 

The Aftermath

What happened after is very simple. When you think you were involved in a terrorist attack, it does a number on you. The feeling when I thought I might die any second was that slow motion kind of a moment. I was proud of myself. I kept my cool. But the consequences were far from ‘being cool.’ 

I suffer from anxiety, mostly from social anxiety. I never thought I would have anxiety from being scared I might die. From anxiety, it went straight to post-traumatic stress disorder. I had one associated with being alone in big crowds, as I was by myself when it all happened. 

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I will never be the same and there was no terrorist attack. Besides the nightmares, after two years I am back to normal, but the feeling will never be forgotten. I think the moral of this story is that people that have gone through real mass shootings, bombs exploding will never be okay again. You didn’t have to get injured to be scarred for life in situations like this. 

Have you ever been involved in something similar? Let us know in the comments because I know from my own experience talking about it helps. 

Features Image Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/CezpbuAU-LQ