I lay here in bed. I woke early, it’s 6am.
Last night, I learned the meaning of terror. To fear pain and trauma. To fear death.
The double pillow is supporting my head all the way down to my aching back.
The clean sheets caress my skin which provides some comfort and light has begun seeping through the blinds.
Soon it will be a new day.
When I close my eyes, I am on the floor of the coffee shop. What started out as habitual ended in terror.
I remember the sounds of friendly chatter and the clinking of cups as they were gently lifted and placed back down onto polished white saucers.
The usual sights – finger tips crumbling chocolate brownies and waitresses pointing at menus.
Women clapping their hands with laughter.
The grinding of the coffee machine continuously humming in the background.
It’s evening. It’s Friday. There’s noise and there’s music.
Everybody is here to either gear up or unwind.
My friend and I sat on stools at the back. It had been a busy day wandering the pearly streets of Oxford Circus. We needed a rest and we chose coffee.
Draping our torsos over wood topped tables, nattering beneath oversized light bulbs, we waited for our coffee to arrive.
My flat white was placed before me and then it began. Panicked screams burst the atmosphere and my thoughts crumbled.
Words stood out from the panic as the crowds fled Carnaby Street. All I could hear was ‘terrorist’ and ‘he’s got a gun’ they scrambled into the coffee shop.
We were not leaving – the noise of such a notion ringing in my ears – oh dear God we were not leaving.
We got on the floor and onto our knees. My stomach was turning like the most merryless-go-round.
I curled up behind a bannister.
In the dark.
Hoping from the depths of my soul that we would get out of this alive.
When you truly believe death may be but minutes or seconds away, it’s fascinating how your instincts change. Your body physically changes.
Your eyes widen. Your heart pumps harder into your chest. Veins like live wires brimming with energy. Movements erratic but movements sharp.
Your thought process is an immediate production line of survival. What do I need to increase my chances of getting out of here alive?
And you take those actions immediately. Without analysis. Without hesitation. You become totally selfish to the moment.
There is no second guessing what your recipients may think and yet your imagination has no limits.
I reached for my phone on the wood topped table beneath the oversized light bulbs.
I texted my dad.
I told him I was in a terror attack.
I told him I was on the floor.
I told him I loved him.
I told him this could be it.
And in an impossible attempt to relieve him from distress, I told him it was okay.
All the while, possible scenarios flipped through my mind. Men blocking the doorway with guns or knives.
What would I do? How intense would the pain be? Which did I prefer?
Would I give my life to avoid torture or could I brave the struggle?
I held my friends hand tightly underneath the table and cried.
I cried for my life and for her life and for everybody else’s lives that I could feel around me in the dark, silent coffee shop.
It transpires the Black Friday incident at Oxford Circus was a false alarm.
This does not make the terror any less real.
Nor does it make the incident any less significant.
24/11/17 was the day terrorism conquered in the absence of the terrorist.
My greatest fear. What comes next?