Londoners went back to work on Monday with a spirit of defiance after a van-and-knives terror attack over the weekend that killed seven people but commuters at the scene of the rampage spoke of their fears.
Saturday night’s atrocity weighed heavily on the minds of people walking across London Bridge and trying to navigate around the cordon screening off Borough Market, where dozens of others were wounded in the attack.
A twisted traffic light at the south end of the bridge almost completely knocked over, revealed where the van crashed after hitting pedestrians before its occupants began their stabbing rampage in the market.
“It’s quite chilling,” said Jessica Bony, who could not get to her office due to the police cordon.
“It’s usually quite busy, everybody is walking across the bridge to get to work. They are still trying to get to work, but the atmosphere is very different this morning,” she told AFP.
“It’s not a nice feeling.”
Grace McGillick, who works in human resources, said the attack was “really scary” when she heard about it on Saturday.
“Now there is no reason to be scared. You have to be defiant about it,” she added.
Echoing that spirit of resilience, images of a man holding a pint while being evacuated from the attack scene among hundreds of other revellers went viral on social media.
Elsewhere in the City, others voiced defiance.
“I’m not afraid. They won’t change my life,” said Oliver Sayers, a 27-year-old consultant.
Alister, 27, a lawyer, said: “It’s business as usual.”
But Italian student Maria Cristina said: “It’s scary. I avoid going to the centre as much as possible.”
‘Very strange’ atmosphere
On a weekday morning, the bridge is typically filled with workers trudging across from the busy London Bridge railway station, on the south side of the River Thames, to the City of London on the north side.
Borough Market, at the south end of the bridge, is a world-famous food hall and a trendy nightlife area near The Shard skyscraper — Britain’s tallest building and one of the best-known sights on the London skyline.
Within five minutes’ walk is the riverside location used by countless tourists for photos of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.
Charly Doy, who owns a news stand at the south end of London Bridge, said the atmosphere was “very strange” as people returned to work.
“Today there’s nothing, I only had one customer. I will close earlier if it’s like that. Normally there’s a lot of people here, buzzing around, buying cigarettes,” he said.
“I was scared but now I’m not, because there’s lot of police, safety and security. I’m feeling a little bit more comfortable.”
London police chief Cressida Dick visited the scene, along with London Mayor Sadiq Khan, as lines of passers-by stood at the police cordon to hear.
“London is back at work. People are getting on with their lives. We know that it is the public, it is communities that will defeat terrorism,” Dick said.
Amid a political controversy over cuts in police numbers, one heckler shouted: “More police on the beat! More police on the beat!”
‘A time of chaos’
Though the bridge remained closed to traffic on Monday, pedestrians and cyclists could make their way across, and people left bouquets of flowers at its northern end.
William Narvaez, from Cali in Colombia, works for a recycling company near Borough Market but could not get there due to the cordon.
“We are shocked. We are in a time of chaos, terror, we are in a situation of serious concern. We must be very careful because we do not know when it could happen again,” said the 55-year-old, who has lived in London for 20 years.
“It is a difficult situation, not only for the population here, but also for tourists. This is a very busy place, it is almost a must-see place to get to know the city.”
He said he had witnessed violence in his home city — which in the past was afflicted with drug-related crime — but it was “nothing like this”.
“These people are more extreme, in the sense that they attack anyone on the street, with cars and knives.”