I have been in nearly every pub in Borough High Street over the last decade. There is nothing remarkable about that – countless other people have spent their free time there and thousands were enjoying themselves when murderous mayhem interrupted their innocent pleasures on Saturday night.
What happened in London Bridge and Borough Market were evil acts of terrorism, killing seven people and leaving 48 people injured. These events were made all the more distressing by the fact they came so soon after attacks in Manchester and Westminster in which more lives were lost.
So there should no equivocation in the condemnation of the cowardly thugs who carried out these killings.
We should focus on those who perished or were injured in these disgraceful attacks, as well as on the sterling work of the police, fire and ambulance services who acted with speed, bravery and compassion to take out the attackers and tend to the injured in what must have been terrifying circumstances.
I wasn’t there on Saturday night but I was in Borough High Street the day before, as I have been hundreds of times. People flock to London Bridge – where the City of London meets the more relaxed community south of the river to go to bars, restaurants, shops and the spectacular Southwark Cathedral.
I was there looking for a venue to hold a family get-together. And what a choice there was. In London Bridge you can hold every type of celebration in nearly every type of venue – old English pubs sit next to a backpackers’ hostel with guests from around the globe while the eateries range from Spanish to Italian to Turkish to Indian. The huge and cavernous Barrow Boy and Banker, which was previously the first branch of National Westminster bank – sits at the top of Borough High Street, on the edge of the river, just a short walk from the City offices whose inhabitants give it half of its name.
It is this happy diversity of people, places and culture that the attackers came to undermine – an aim in which they failed miserably. Jeremy Corbyn was right to condemn the “depraved inhumanity” of the perpetrators. It is a tragedy that seven people lost their lives. Several of the injured remain in a critical condition and it is the victims we should think of today rather than the animals who carried out these crimes.
The attackers were met with great British bravery from the police marksmen who were able to fire shots within eight minutes of getting the emergency call, to the uniformed officers who ran into nightspots to protect revellers, to members of the public who sounded the warning to strangers or came to their aid.
London’s freesheet Metro highlighted one of many stories of heroism which emerged from Saturday night when it recounted how a rookie policeman took on one of the terrorists armed with just a baton. The officer survived but is thought to have sustained serious injuries. Like everyone affected, the thoughts of the nation are with him.
London will endure. Richard Angell, the Progress director who was in the Arabica bar at Borough Market when the attack happened, today used a compelling Times Red Box article to vow to return to pay his bill and double the tip of the “incredible staff” who looked out for their safety of their customers when “their own welfare was so palpably at risk”.
Amid the police investigation, the resumption of politics and the care of the injured, life is getting back to normal. Of course, that “normal” is different now than it was before the weekend but the British values of fairness, equality, tolerance and decency will emerge stronger than ever.
Yes, there have been three awful terrorist attacks in fewer than three months but, no, the nation is not “reeling”, as the New York Times screamed on Saturday night. London Bridge is not falling down. Britain stands tall today.