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London students share experiences of attack

| Friday, March 24, 2017

Following an attack on London's Houses of Parliament, the University confirmed the safety of ND abroad students.Benjamin Padanilam | The Observer
Following an attack on London’s Houses of Parliament, the University confirmed the safety of ND abroad students.

Students studying abroad in London this semester were put on lockdown in the midst of an attack Wednesday near the British Houses of Parliament and Westminster Bridge. The University confirmed the safety of all 167 students currently studying in London less than an hour after the incident, including nine students interning at Parliament at the time of the attack.

Junior and Parliament intern Jim English was at work when the attack occurred and said he had a view of some of the action from his office window.

“Outside my window on our ground floor office, there is a parking lot where a lot of [members of Parliament] park their cars,” he said in an email. “I was just chatting with my supervisor and another colleague when there was shouting out in the lot, and … [a] few seconds later, Prime Minister Theresa May was rushed through the parking lot and guided into a car where she was eventually taken away. We then learned that there was a shooting and the policemen were yelling for everyone to stay in their rooms.”

Junior Hadyn Pettersen is studying abroad at St. Andrew’s University in Scotland this semester, but he was in London for a brief visit with his dad and uncle. Pettersen said in an email that he saw the aftermath of the attack firsthand.

“I was on a tour bus with my dad and uncle, who had flown to St. Andrew’s earlier in the week to visit me,” he said. “… While on Westminster bridge, another passenger pointed across to the sidewalk and gasped. I looked and saw several people on the ground. A few had gruesome injuries. A few were motionless. I first thought a driver had lost control of his car, but looking down the length of the bridge it became obvious to me that the act was intentional.”

Junior James Woodley is interning at a school in London through Notre Dame and was at the school when he learned about the attack from a friend interning at Parliament.

“I believe the attack happened at [2:40 p.m.] or so, and at [3:05 p.m.] — when class was dismissed — the intercom asked the teachers to not dismiss the students,” he said in an email. “I have a friend who is one of the, I believe, nine interns at Parliament and he texted me explaining what info he had at the time and that he was alright. I stayed put at the school until they released the students, about a half hour later … I have always thought of London as a very safe city, and today was the first day I was worried walking around.”

Junior and Parliament intern Caitlin McAuliffe said she had taken her visiting parents on a tour of the Parliamentary estate the day before the incident, but was not at work at the time of the attack.

“My backpack was stolen at lunchtime from the pub I had eaten at with my parents, so I was in the Notre Dame building sorting out my stolen laptop, credit cards and phone when my Parliament intern group chat went off with people talking about it and being very upset,” she said. “Right now, I just feel really lucky that I wasn’t at work [Wednesday] or that I wasn’t showing my parents around the Parliamentary estate.”

Junior Jaclyn Daily said students in Notre Dame London’s residence buildings generally felt more removed from the “tragic situation.”

“Everyone was very calm as we all felt safe and fairly separated from the situation,” she said in an email. “We were on lockdown for 30-60 minutes. … Notre Dame accounted for all students within an hour and was constantly updating us with relevant information via emails.”

Junior and Parliament intern Emily Gust said in an email that the quick work of local and Parliament authorities helped her stay calm and feel safe as she waited in lockdown at Parliament.

“I was shocked as I saw it unfold, and when I heard it was a terrorist attack it made me a little nervous about a potential further attack,” she said.“But being in parliament, I felt very safe, because I could see all of the police officers and knew they had the area secured. It was a scary situation, but by remaining calm and trusting the authorities to do what was best, it felt a lot less frightening. My office really helped calm me down with their relaxed attitude, and I think that helped a lot.”

While he was “shaken up” by his experience, English said he is grateful to those who prevented the situation becoming any worse.

“It’s a bit surreal. I kind of feel like I just walked out of the movie theaters or off of a film set, so I don’t know if it’s completely hit me yet,” he said. “I’m definitely a bit shaken up by it, just considering how close I was to everything that happened. But it could have also been much worse, so I am very grateful and blessed at the same time. I’m thankful to all of the men and women who neutralized the situation [Wednesday] at Parliament and I’m grateful for the care and protection Notre Dame provides us with, especially in times of crisis.”

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About Courtney Becker

Courtney is a senior from New York City majoring in film, television and theater with a minor in journalism, who recently wrapped up her year as Editor-in-Chief. She is a former resident of Pasquerilla West Hall and a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan.

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