On Wednesday the world learned of an attack on the U.K. Parliament that started on the Westminster Bridge in London. While reports continue to flood in and new details emerge, eyewitness accounts of the U.K. Parliament attack show the devastation of terrorist attacks and why now, more than ever, we must come together and protect one another.
Update: According to the Associated Press, British police late Wednesday evening raised the death toll in the Parliament attack to five. At least 40 people were injured.
According to initial reports, the assailant drove his car into unsuspecting and innocent bystanders on the Westminster Bridge, before ramming said vehicle into the perimeter fence surrounding Parliament. The assailant then reportedly stabbed a police officer, before eventually being shot by armed police officers in the area. The House of Commons was in session during the attack, but was quickly and immediately suspended. According to CNN, Britain's Press Association says one woman was killed in the incident on Westminster Bridge. The BBC has since confirmed that the police officer who was stabbed has also lost his life. The U.K. Metropolitan police are treating both incidents as a connected terrorist attack until further information is acquired. The attack took place on the one year anniversary of the terrorist attack on Brussels, where 32 people lost their lives and over 320 people were injured.
While multiple questions remain unanswered, people are sharing their eyewitness accounts of what happened at Parliament and on the Westminster Bridge. These accounts, some more graphic than others, show the devastation of such attacks and the way in which senseless violence inflicts an unbelievable, long-lasting pain.
One gentlemen said that while waiting to meet his friends for coffee and after riding his bike from work, he heard a "loud shot" or "gunshot" or "something." The short video ends, and the man seems to be describing (possibly) the moment the assailant was shot outside of Parliament.
Quentin Letts, the Daily Mail's Parliamentary sketch writer, told the BBC he saw a man dressed in black, attack a police officer after coming through the gates into New Palace Yard.
He had something in his hand, it looked like a stick of some sort, and he was challenged by a couple of policemen in yellow jackets. And one of the yellow-jacketed policemen fell down and we could see the man in black moving his arms in a way that suggested he was stabbing or striking the yellow-jacketed man.
Another gentleman took to Twitter to share his story and give his first-person account of what he witnessed.
Rick Longley told the Evening Standard that he believed he saw a man stab a policemen, continuing by saying:
We were just walking up to the station and there was a loud bang and a guy, someone, crashed a car and took some pedestrians out. They were just laying there and then the whole crowd just surged around the corner by the gates just opposite Big Ben. A guy came past my right shoulder with a big knife and just started plunging it into the policeman.
Aaron Tsang shared video of people running away from Parliament as shots are heard in the distance, presumably (and according to Twitter) the moment police opened fire on the assailant. "See? That's not normal," says a voice in the background.
While reports continue to pour in and more and more eyewitness accounts are shared and circulated via the media, one thing is for certain: the fear and the pain and the devastation of terrorist attacks is very real, but are no reason to jump to conclusion or condemn entire groups of people. Waiting to hear all the facts does not take away from eyewitness accounts, but does a service to those affected by acts of senseless violence.