"Our building is being evacuated"by / March 22, 2017 / Leave a comment
The Prospect office is two minutes from parliament and in the immediate aftermath of today’s suspected terror attack I was standing in the square watching police and paramedics crowding round a body on the floor by the foot of Big Ben. A few yards away from them was a car, parked horizontally across the pavement. The body was covered in a silver blanket, the kind Marathon runners get at the finish line. It was not moving.
A helicopter suddenly appeared, very low over the square, and police officers began to shoo the crowds away from what had now become a landing site. The chopper circled a few times and then set down on the grass at the end of the square closest to the entrance to parliament. An ambulance was parked inside the gates used by MPs.
People were wandering across the square and police were shouting for them to get back. Tape was thrown up across the streets and the place became filled with police cars, sirens and heavily armed officers, not conventional police but heavily armed, more paramilitary in appearance, carrying assault rifles. The place was a strange mixture of threat and excitement. Crowds of tourists were watching on. The traffic was at a standstill. Near the body by the foot of Big Ben, several tourist coaches were stuck, unable to move.
A woman in the crowd told me that she always thought something like this would happen. She lived in a flat by the abbey, she said, and felt that Parliament Square was vulnerable. I asked her what made her think so—she said she was a retired police officer, a former WPC based in Fulham. It was like something from the past, she said. She had been at the Harrods bombing, she told me. When the crowds started to gather she was one of the officers who pushed the crowds back.
More ambulances sped into the square, followed by several police cars. A car also entered, with “Dog Section” written on its side. I asked whether the police were worried about a possible bomb. Do you think we’d be standing here if they thought there was, she said, and raised an eyebrow.
The ambulances were crowding down the bridge. And now our building is being evacuated. It seems we live a little too close to Parliament today.