By Wendy Nugent, Newton Now
Newton resident Christine McKellip described her and her daughter’s harrowing experience Wednesday in London as “surreal” following a terrorist knife-and-car attack near Parliament.
She and her daughter, Charlotte Renollet of rural Peabody, are on a trip to London and were at Parliament when shots rang out and people started running. Both are fine after the attack that left four dead, including the terrorist, and 20 injured.
They were in Parliament’s entryway.
“We saw people running, and then we heard gunshots,” McKellip said during a telephone interview around 5:45 p.m. today from overseas (it was 10:45 p.m. there). “We had just been through security—we had been walking in.”
That was the point they saw people running.
“(Charlotte) shoved me and yelled, ‘Run,’” McKellip said. “She went in one direction, and I went the other.”
Then, McKellip tried to go back across the entryway to meet up with Renollet, but a security guard wouldn’t let her, telling her to go down a hall and stay away from windows.
“It was right there,” said McKellip, who said people watching the news probably know more about exactly what happened with the attack than they do.
After about an hour and a half, McKellip and her daughter, who is a nurse at Newton Medical Center, were reunited, and then they were locked down in Parliament another hour, McKellip believes, although she thinks her time might be a bit askew. Their next stop was Westminster Abbey, where the duo stayed for several more hours with thousands of other people, since people in the House of Parliament were evacuated to Westminster.
“The Abbey was cool,” McKellip said.
McKellip posted on Facebook around 11 a.m. Wednesday, “We are safe but in lockdown in the House of Parliament.”
She hadn’t posted anything since then on Facebook.
Around 1:15 p.m. Wednesday, Renollet wrote on Facebook, “Well, if you’re ever going to be on lockdown for hours, I highly recommend Westminster Abbey. It’s a beaut.”
McKellip said they were in Europe to see one of Charlotte’s childhood friends, who lives in Cambridge. The three went to Paris for a few days, and this was McKellip’s first trip out of the United States.
“Charlotte and I were just out seeing the sites today,” McKellip said. “I wish I had more time and money under better circumstances.”
McKellip said people were quite accommodating, making sure they had water, calling them nice and kind.
“Very, very nice,” she added. “We saw the best and worst in people today.”
After the lockdown was over, McKellip and Renollet needed to find another train station because the Westminster one was closed, and they needed to get back her cousin’s flat. A young couple walked with them to another train station.
“Met a lot of really nice people,” McKellip said.
By the time they were released from the Abbey, both McKellip’s and Renollet’s phones were dead. They had used their phones for entertainment, and they also just sat around and visited with people to help pass them time.
It was not an experience they expected.
“Trying to process it all,” McKellip said. “Just not something we’re accustomed to—something not anybody’s accustomed to. It’s just a strange experience be locked down and an even stranger experience to be locked down in Westminster Abbey. Hard to wrap your head around.”