Article by Georgia Limcaoco
On March 22, 2017, a car was driven into the people walking along the pavement on the south side of Westminster Bridge, near the Houses of Parliament. The car then crashed into the perimeter fence of the Palace of Westminster before the assailant, Khalid Masood, left the vehicle and proceeded to stab and kill a police officer. Masood was shot dead shortly after. In total, five people died, including Masood, and around 50 more were injured.
The entire attack is said to have lasted only 82 seconds. Masood had had a criminal past, having been convicted several times across a span of 20 years for assault and weapon possession, though he was never convicted of any terrorism offences.
“I’m shocked and saddened, but not really surprised,” says Ms. Gifford, a history teacher at ISM who hails from the UK, on the attack. “Given that there have been many other attacks like this in other European cities, I was expecting something to happen in the UK. It could have been far worse than it was. I was impressed at how quickly the police reacted to prevent more deaths.”
Meanwhile, sophomore Gabby F., who had lived in London for seven years, says, “I felt quite upset once I heard about the attack. I found it so terrifying that this attack happened so near to where my friends and I lived. It’s hard to connect this with my memories of such a happy place.”
Although Ms. Gifford and Gabby no longer live in the UK, this attack has nevertheless affected them both. Gabby worries about her friends currently residing in London, and Ms. Gifford is concerned about members of her family who still live in the UK, as well as the political effects of the crime.
“It worries me a great deal, as my sister works in London and I have lots of ex-students and friends there,” adds Ms. Gifford, “My oldest son was in London at the time as well, though not in the vicinity. Politically, this attack could add to the current anti-Islamic and anti-immigrant sentiments in the UK. The pro-Brexit camp will no doubt use it as evidence of the two aforementioned groups being a danger, and that worries me.”
“It’s terrifying how in the blink of an eye, everything can change,” Gabby comments. “One moment, you could be having a regular day walking home from school or work, and the next, you could be surrounded by utter chaos.”
As Ms. Gifford so aptly put, there is great danger that such events could be used to fuel hateful and discriminatory actions. Now, it is more important than ever that we remain open and accepting, and not allow chaos and fear to blind us.