When The Streets Are Not Safe

Parliament Square and Big Ben. Taken on Monday 20 March 2017 by your correspondent.
Parliament Square and Big Ben. Taken on Monday 20 March 2017 by your correspondent.

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.