A Leeds woman has described the sense of panic within Parliamentary walls yesterday as the horrors of the Westminster attack unfolded just metres away.
Annabel Pryke, a 24 year old senior parliamentary researcher from Ilkley who has worked at the Palace of Westminster for three years, told Yorkshire Voice how police shouted for her to “lock the doors and get away from the window” after shots were fired.
She said: “My colleague sits by the window, opposite me, and suddenly he said ‘that’s odd, everyone’s running across the courtyard’. We all got up and looked out onto the courtyard below and immediately we all went quiet.”
“The police were shouting up at people and members of staff were running into the surrounding offices.”
Annabel says it was seconds before panic set in.
“Then we noticed the policemen loading their guns. We all knew then that something was happening.”
As members of staff scrambled to ensure offices were secured, news filtered through on the television that Westminster was under attack.
“We heard unconfirmed reports that there was a second attacker and that we had to remain on lockdown whilst the police searched the palace. They turned out to be false but you can imagine how scary that was.”
“We were all advised to contact family and friends to say we were safe and locked in our offices.”
“Some members of staff, including MPs, have children in the parliamentary nursery, which was particularly worrying for them.”
As panic subsided, the feeling within Parliamentary walls turned to anxiety. Trapped staff members relied on BBC News and Twitter as their main sources of information.
“It was eery. Usually the corridors are bustling with MPs and staffers making their way to meetings, but the corridors were silent.”
“We knew how serious it was, and yet at the same time we didn’t truly know what had happened, stuck in the centre of it but with no more information than those on the outside.”
As events subsided and police began evacuating the outside buildings, Annabel and her colleagues took time to reflect.
“By this point we knew of the causalities and we were grateful to be safe.”
The hundreds of politicians and staff were evacuated through the bowels of parliament and through the kitchen corridors at around 7:30pm yesterday evening.
“We gave our names and addresses to police and were warned to remove our passes as we left because it was a symbol of where we worked.”
“Policemen and women lined the colonnade to protect us. I felt so sorry for them having to stand so close to where their colleague had died to protect us. It was very sad and humbling.”
Like so many London residents who have pledged their defiance today, Annabel’s love for the city and its forces has been strengthened by yesterday’s tragedy.
She added: “I am truly proud of London and our services. My cousin works at Kings College Hospital as a Doctor and she spent the day saving the lives of those injured. Everyday we all rely on the police to protect us, and yesterday they did.”
“I have seen that Fox News have said that one man shut down London. He did not, and we carry on, unafraid but indebted to those that gave their lives.”