I just returned from celebrating my granddaughter’s 14th birthday in London. We left Phoenix on Saturday, June 3 and flew all night arriving in London on June 4 at 8:30 a.m. As we waited for our luggage, I turned on my phone and it exploded with messages. I had a text from my husband to return home immediately. I had messages from family members and friends asking if we were okay. I started responding as quickly as possible because I could sense the urgency particularly because there were so many messages with the same concern. I didn’t get it! I told everyone the flight was fine, we landed a bit late due to the weather but we were getting our luggage and waiting for our Blackberry Car to take us to our hotel. Everything was fine so I thought.
As soon as we cleared customs our driver was waiting for us. On our drive to the hotel, I asked the driver if something had happened in London and he shared that the night before there had been a terrorist attack on London Bridge and several people were killed or injured. So there it was, the reason my family and friends were so concerned. I peaked at my granddaughter to see if she responded in any way. Thank goodness for Snapchat; she was busy telling her friends she had arrived in London. I still could not completely grasp what the driver was saying nor could I interpret the gravity of what he was saying because he was so nonchalant. He told me what had taken place and that the police were handling the situation brilliantly. And so they were, as I would find out later. Even so, I began thinking should we go or should we stay in London. My primary concern was my granddaughter. I was responsible to her parents; I was to bring her back home safely.
As I thought about my decision, I talked with the driver always choosing my words carefully so as not to alarm my granddaughter. I thought I would try to get additional information by engaging in small talk. I learned that he was not concerned because in his opinion he knew Scotland Yard would exhaust every effort to keep 8.7 million people residing in London with an additional quarter of a million tourists on any given day safe. Once again I thought if this were just me, I would not hesitate in my thinking to stay in London but it wasn’t just me. What should I do? My spirit said I know how to take care of my granddaughter; I know how to protect her; protecting my children and now my grandchildren are simply part of every mother’s makeup.
As we drove closer to our hotel located in central London, I saw hundreds of people on the streets, and this was at 10:00 a.m. Driving was hazardous as cars wove in and out of lanes. A lot of city buses appeared out of nowhere cutting cars off to continue on their routes and most perplexing of all, everywhere I looked there were 4 or 5 tourists’ buses following red lines, green lines, and blue lines to give their riders a glimpse of the capital of England. I asked the driver if the numbers were due to the attack and he said, "No this is typical for London; it’s the tourists.” By the time we reached our hotel, we were excited and I was not as apprehensive seeing so many people laughing and seemingly enjoying themselves.
As we settled into our hotel, we discovered everything was in walking distance from our hotel. The London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abby, The National Gallery, Big Ben, The London Dungeon, The Tower Bridge as well as the London Bridge, the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London, just everything. Suddenly my thoughts were crystal clear. I realized I wasn’t afraid. I understand the difference between being afraid and being vigilant. We weren’t going home; my granddaughter would be devastated! Instead, I would be vigilant and she would continue her innocent awe of London without concern. We unpacked our clothes and left the hotel to join the other tourists walking around and exploring our new neighborhood. As we did, we ran into police who were smiling and gracious even though we saw rifles held in place with straps across their shoulders. They were so friendly that we approached a few who answered all of our tourist questions and then proceeded to ask if we needed directions. By the next day, the terrorist attack was the last thing we thought of except sending our good wishes and prayers to the families who lost loved ones.
The following days now seem like a blur as we rushed each morning to see the Changing of the Guards only to miss them on one day; finding out they were canceled on another day and finally realized with the crowds, we could never get close enough. But, we were delighted to see the Guards Horse Parade, very colorful, very precise, and very royal. We saw everything on my granddaughter’s list of “musts” including The Dream Ballet and the musical Aladdin. I also had one on my list… shopping at Harrods and buying a new Chanel. Now I think, what would have happened if we had given into fear? My granddaughter would have missed the most exciting time of her young life and I would have missed enjoying her and bonding with her on our London adventure.
Pictures from left to right:
Changing of the Royal Guard
Statue of Queen Victoria Outer Courtyard of Buckingham Palace
Big Ben and West Minister Abbey
The Dream Ballet at the London Opera House