London attack vigil honours the dead and unites capital against terrorism: 'We will never be broken'

Sadiq Khan leads vigil for the dead and wounded of the London terror attack, as the capital refuses to give in to hate

Adam Lusher
Tuesday 06 June 2017 14:25
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Thousands join together for vigil after London Bridge terror attack

They came in their hundreds, to Potters Fields, a patch of green squeezed between City Hall and Tower Bridge, the next river crossing along from where terrorists began a rampage that killed seven and injured at least 48.

For some attending the vigil for the dead and wounded, it was a case of ‘it could have been us.’

On week days advertising executives Ana Brenikov, 25, and Lydia Hamer, 24, use Borough Market as their post-work drinking hole.

“It’s where we go every Thursday, every Friday,” said Ms Brenikov, clutching a bouquet of yellow roses. “On another day….”

Others, like Maxwell Madzikanga, 47, came still shocked at what had befallen the area where they took their lunch breaks. He wore a black tie for mourning, but a red love heart lapel for what he hoped would follow tragedy.

“I left on Friday night,” said the NHS population health improvement analyst. “Everything seemed so quiet, so serene…

“I went back on Sunday …. You could touch the pain.

“In our office, people were very quiet today. The jokes weren’t there.”

Something else was, though.

“The courage to go on,” Mr Madzikanga. “We can’t be intimidated – if we do that, the monsters will be able to claim a false victory.”

For some, that courage will be harder to find than most.

These were the quiet ones, keeping themselves to themselves, hugging silently, tears flowing, emotions too raw for words.

One of the few who felt up to talking to outsiders was Jonathan Coimbra, 32, a bar tender at Wright Brothers in Borough Market.

“We locked the doors,” he said, the shock still there in his voice. “We saw knives full of blood … They tried to get in, but couldn’t … When we heard the gunshots we didn’t know if it was the good guys or the bad guys firing.

“I will never understand what happens in the heads of these people …”

Those who worked in Borough Market, he said, were “like a family”.

A shocked, grieving family, but one that Neil McGuinness hoped might heal.

Living opposite the market, he knew all the bar workers. Only a trip away had stopped him being there on Saturday night, although he heard the police gunshots as a taxi dropped him off at his front door.

“We have to recognise the pain and the trauma,” he said. “Before we can move on, and being here tonight is part of that.”

He knew it was a cliché, but the 46-year-old, originally from Dublin, insisted it was true nonetheless – terrorism, and hate would never win:

“Love is stronger than fear. If we can do it in Ireland, we can do it anywhere.”

And, he added pointedly, “When the IRA planted bombs, we never described them as Catholics. They were just terrorists. These people are just terrorists. Let us not associate them with the beautiful name that is Islam.”

Mr McGuinness had seemed calmer than his 20-something bar worker friends. But when he glanced at those friends, the tears came, as if from nowhere.

“These are people I know and love. It [Borough Market] is where I do life. It’s not somewhere I just go, it’s where I do life…”

He wiped the tears away, determined not to crumple.

“We owe it to the people who died to heal. We have to do it in our own time, and with compassion.

“Be gentle with each other, London needs kindness.”

If Mr McGuinness had summoned up the eloquence to speak for his friends, it fell to London Mayor Sadiq Khan to address the feelings of the whole crowd, the capital and the country beyond.

He spoke flanked by Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, surrounded by leaders of all faiths, against a backdrop of grey skies, and flags at half-mast on Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.

He spoke of the cowardice of the attack, spat out the word “barbarity” as if giving vent to the full force of the contempt he felt, “as a proud and patriotic British Muslim”.

He delivered “a clear message to the sick and vile extremists who did these hideous crimes:

“We. Will. Defeat you.

“You. Will. NOT Win.”

The cheers were, if anything, even louder when he praised the emergency services and “the brave Londoners who risked their lives to care for others.”

“You,” he said, “Are the best of us.”

He acknowledged the sorrow, the anger, but, he told the crowd: “Our unity and love for one another will always be stronger than hate.

“This our city, this is our way of life. London will never be broken.”

After the prolonged applause, they observed the minute’s silence, Ruby Symes, two and a half, holding a ‘Love London’ placard adorned with a Peppa Pig sticker, next to a group of girls from a Muslim faith school.

“Everybody here is a Londoner,” said one of the 14-year-olds.

“I want Ruby to know we stand together,” said Ruby’s mum Jillian, 37, a tax adviser. “Because she’s a Londoner.”

As they left, they placed their flowers outside City Hall.

After the still of the ceremony, it took time for the chatter and hubbub of the city to return to this green space, but return it did.

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