Irish News journalist tells of visit to London Bridge just hours before deadly attacks
IT'S hard to believe that I walked across London Bridge and visited Borough Market on Saturday afternoon just hours before the attacks which left seven people dead and scores injured.
Visiting the city for a break with my husband, we had been heading to the Tate Modern and were walking the mile or so to the gallery from where we were staying in Shoreditch.
Crossing the bridge made our journey slightly longer - but it was the attraction of being on one of London's iconic landmarks that was precisely what drew us to it.
We saw HMS Belfast floating below us on the Thames and took pictures.
People were walking in the sunshine soaking up the rays on what was a glorious June day.
One thing we did notice though was that one side of the bridge was closed to facilitate road works. That meant the crowds were all concentrated on one side of the road - something probably noticed by the three attackers who knocked down so many pedestrians several hours later.
We had walked past the the Barrowboy and Banker and walked down steps below the rail bridge taking in the chilled atmosphere of Borough Market with its lovely, quaint bars.
We had walked back to our hotel before heading off to the London Stadium - further along the arterial route that runs from London Bridge, and enjoyed with 80,000 people a Depeche Mode concert.
As we returned on our number 25 bus just after10pm we got the first hint that something terrible had happened. We passed a digital sign that said London Bridge was closed and to avoid the surrounding area.
On mentioning this a group of Austrians we had been chatting with on the bus, said a 'transporter' had knocked down people on the bridge.
Filled with a sense of dread we got into the safety of our hotel minutes later where guests were frantically on their phones and staff put on the TV as news began to filter through; it had been another terror attack.
We watched in disbelief as news came through that three men had deliberately crashed their van into people walking on London Bridge, along the same stretch where, as carefree tourists, I had walked hours earlier with my husband.
Then it emerged that scores more were injured after being stabbed while out for a drink on a Saturday night in Borough Market at the pubs and bars we walked past as well.
We woke yesterday to another day in London. As we stepped out into the streets of Shoreditch, people were waking to the news but coming and going as they might on a quiet Sunday morning.
It's hard to believe what has happened but there is a sense that despite this latest attack a city as great as London will do its best to fight back and, with it, get stronger.