On Monday I met my dad at Westminster for an impromptu catch up. He is rarely in London and a few of my meetings were cancelled, so I headed to Westminster Underground Station where we would meet. As we walked from the station towards St James’s Park it was impossible not to be inspired by everything around: the gothic extravaganza of the Houses of Parliament; Parliament Square populated with great statesmen, Canning, Churchill, Lincoln; Westminster Abbey open to all. After coffee, we headed back to Westminster Station. The streets were bustling with tourists, school children, workers. The early-spring sun caught the face of Big Ben. A resplendent view. We went into the station and our separate ways.
What a difference two days makes. Today, the streets unsafe. On hearing the news, I was convulsed by thoughts of “what if?” my dad and I met in Westminster today instead of Monday. There, where lives were lost.
This evening on the way home, I thought about diverting my journey away from the typical route that takes me through Westminster Station. An armed policeman on the tube added to the anxiety. On hearing a police siren in south west London later in the evening, more fear entered into my mind. “Another attack?” This is not a way to live, this is the way that they want us to live. But it makes you realise that we live in a paradigm of constant insecurity: since 2014, UK security services have set the terrorist threat level to ‘Severe’, meaning that an attack is “highly likely.”
It makes me think when I will next visit a famous London location. But how can I stop? That feeling: of walking down the street inspired, talking, looking around, taking it in, that timeless view of our democracy. That is what freedom is for.