On London Bridge before attack: ‘Luck of the draw’

Patrick DeHaan, London
Patrick DeHaan and his family in London. (Courtesy photo - June 3, 2017)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids native who was with his family on London Bridge hours before a deadly attack said he feels lucky to be back in the United States alive.

Patrick DeHaan, his wife and stepson were on family vacation in Europe. They decided to spend one day in London on Saturday before heading back to the U.S.

“(We) went right from the airport to downtown, saw Westminster Abbey, saw Big Ben,” DeHaan told 24 Hour News 8 over Skype on Sunday.

Patrick DeHaan, London
Parliament and Big Ben in London. (Courtesy Patrick DeHaan – June 3, 2017)

The last of the sights they stopped at was London Bridge. DeHaan and his family were there around 5 p.m. local time, about five hours before the attack.

The family had bumped up their flight at the last minute, so they turned in early in order to get to the airport on time for a morning flight.

“I woke up to several — perhaps a dozen — friends that had sent text message asking if we were OK and we had just gotten out of there a few hours prior,” DeHaan said.

“You wonder if this could have been you and it’s really the luck of the draw,” he added.

Patrick DeHaan, London
Patrick DeHaan and his family in London. (Courtesy photo – June 3, 2017)

Seven people were killed and more than four dozen injured in the attack, which started when a van crashed into pedestrians on London Bridge. The three attackers then started slashing at people at nearby bars and restaurants with knives. Police responded and within eight minutes, officers had shot and killed the attackers.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack, the Associated Press reports.

DeHaan said the city was somber Sunday morning.

“It was just really quiet and not increased in security presence, which was our first expectation,” he said.

He said that even before the attack, he was surprised by how few armed officers he saw.

“I remember we were at London’s King’s Cross, which is a major train station and transportation hub, a few hours prior and I remember looking around and thinking, well, given that the U.K. was at the highest level of alert that I only saw two armed guards,” DeHaan said.

Despite the attacks, DeHaan said he will continue to travel — but with a heightened awareness of his surroundings.

“There is a lot more to a vacation now. We can’t just go somewhere and turn our brains off,” he said. “It’s just a different way of life now.”