Elise Briggs shows the strain of working under threat of terrorist attack.
I took a keen interest in the video recently issued by terrorist group Al-Shabaab threatening death and destruction in Stratford Westfield, because I work there.
The 76-minute video, featuring Somalia-based Al-Shabaab’s version of ‘Jihadi John’, gives the map coordinates for Oxford Street and for both of London’s Westfield shopping centres – one in White City and the other in Stratford. ‘All it takes is a man of firm determination, which our Muslim ummah has plenty of,’ warns the hooded figure.
It seems like a scene from a movie and a real life threat – an unnerving combination.
Every day now, as I walk to work in a restaurant, I cannot fail to notice the countless security guards on patrol.
The other day the fire alarm went off, reverberating through the glass halls of this giant shopping mall. There were repeated calls to evacuate the building and the fire shutters were slowly lowered from the ceiling.
The faces of the people I was serving at the time, told me of the horror they had already conjured up in their minds. I could tell immediately what each of them was thinking, even before they asked me what to do.
You feel a sense of helplessness and overwhelming confusion at what might be about to happen as copious amounts of people struggle to find a foothold on the escalator to safety.
As it turned out, there were no bombs nor suicide shootists. It was only a routine exercise, but it served to remind me of what we have managed to get used to.
For nearly a decade now, Londoners have been soldiering on, doing our best to disregard a terror threat rated as ‘severe’ by the authorities.
No doubt we will continue to do so. But it is a strain – and sometimes we cannot help but let it show.