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P.E.I. native says day of terror in London was ‘surreal and frightening’

Tara Stewart of Montague posted this selfie on Facebook after she arrived in London on March 20, two days before an attack that claimed five lives at the city’s Parliament and Westminster Bridge.
Tara Stewart of Montague posted this selfie on Facebook after she arrived in London on March 20, two days before an attack that claimed five lives at the city’s Parliament and Westminster Bridge.

LONDON, U.K. – It wasn’t the 45th birthday Tara Stewart expected, but it was a day that reminded her why she loves the city of London and its people. 

Wednesday, the Montague native was in the midst of a weeklong solo trip to the U.K. city in celebration of the milestone birthday.

It was also the day terror struck London.

A knife-wielding man plowed a vehicle into pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge before stabbing a police officer to death inside the gates of Parliament. Five people were killed, including the assailant, while 40 others were injured in the attack.

Stewart was attending a play — “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” starring “Harry Potter’s” Daniel Radcliffe — at the Old Vic Theatre, about five minutes away from Parliament.

The play began at 2:30 p.m. London time, roughly 10 minutes before the attack took place.

RELATED: 5 dead in vehicle, knife attack at British Parliament

At intermission, a theatre employee came onto the stage to tell the audience there had been an incident at Parliament.

“Everybody started turning their phones on to find out what happened,” Stewart recalled.

“You just feel sick because you have no idea what’s coming next.”

Despite the chaos outside, Stewart said the play continued after the intermission without a hitch.

The red marker on the right shows the Old Vic Theatre where Tara Stewart was watching a play when the attack took place. The London Eye can be seen near the top centre of the map, while the House of Commons is shown near the bottom left.

Afterwards, it was a matter of getting in touch with her family and friends back in P.E.I. who had been calling and sending text messages wondering about her safety.

She then had to get figure out how to get back to her hotel. She was able to catch the subway, or tube, near the London Eye observation wheel, a stone’s throw from Westminster Bridge.

“When I was at the London Eye, I could see the hospital where they were taking the victims,” she said. “It was surreal and frightening.”

RELATED: A look at victims of the attack outside London's Parliament

She made it through long lineups at the tube, which she assumed were due to baggage checks for security, before eventually making it back to her hotel around 10 p.m.

Thursday morning, Stewart said Westminster Station was still closed to public transit and the flags at Parliament were flying at half-mast. Otherwise, the city and its residents appeared to be back to normal.

Stewart has travelled to London about five times in her life, but this trip will be unforgettable for more than the sights, sounds and company of the friends she visits in Cambridge.

Throughout the tragic events of Wednesday, Stewart was most impressed with how the people around her comported themselves with calm.

“It was a real show of solidarity to watch how well Londoners handled everything. It was a real comfort being near all of those people,” she said. “I still love the city as much as I ever did. It’s still my favourite place to visit.”

Stewart will celebrate her birthday in London on Saturday and return home to P.E.I. on Sunday.

 

stephen.brun@tc.tc

Twitter.com/stephendbrun

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